Laura Mullenders, Inbound Rotary Youth Exchange Student, 2015

 
The RYE program consists of going away from your country for a year to discover a new culture, a new language, new people but also to discover a new part of yourself. I can truly say that my exchange is my biggest accomplishment and it has changed me forever. I left my country as a teenager thinking I knew ”everything” about myself and the world and I’ll go back there as a young adult with eyes opened to the world and the endless envy to wander every single part the world has to offer.
 
Hi everyone, my name is Laura Mullenders and I’m writing this as I’m coming to the end of my amazing year as a Rotary Youth Exchange student. The RYE program consists of going away from your country for a year to discover a new culture, a new language, new people but also to discover a new part of yourself. I can truly say that my exchange is my biggest accomplishment and it has changed me forever. I left my country as a teenager thinking I knew ”everything” about myself and the world and I’ll go back there as a young adult with eyes opened to the world and the endless envy to wander every single part the world has to offer.
 
For my exchange I literally travelled to the other side of the world (New Zealand is 18,365 km away from home, which represent 40 hours travel) and yet I managed to find new friends from all over the world, discover new passions and skills, learn about a new culture, try new food, and live some awesome experiences…
 
Many people have been asking me what was the biggest highlight of my time here and during my exchange I thought it was a really hard question… What was I supposed to say? Skydiving in Queenstown? Achieving to walk the Milford Track? Travelling to Fiji? Staying in a $4.5 million house for 2 weeks? Staying on a catamaran in the beautiful Bay of Islands for 4 days and seeing dolphins for the very first time? Walking and mountain biking around Mount Ruapehu? The very first feeling I got when I achieved to stand on the water with ski? The list of my highlights is endless but now that this amazing year is coming to an end, I can finally realise that the answer is actually pretty simple…my biggest highlight on my exchange is the amazing family I found here…the Rotary family.  When I arrived I never expected to find so many amazing and inspiring people belonging to Rotary and even if I had to get up at 6am every Friday for the Rotary meetings, I was happy because I knew that it would be funnier than just sleeping!
 
It’s funny because you build a life for 18 years back home and then you go on exchange and you build another life in 1 year and it’s hard to decide which one is harder to leave. I will miss a lot of people here and I almost feel like I’m leaving a part of me in New Zealand. It’s a really weird and sad feeling because I know that my exchange has changed me forever and yet I won’t be able to be an exchange student anymore. I cried when I left my country, but I know that I will cry even more when I will leave this place and when you think about it that’s quite amazing isn’t it?
 
This year has truly been a blast and I’m really proud to say that I now belong to two countries and two families. All I’ve got left to say is that the (great) success of my exchange is mainly owned to my host club; Waikato Sunrise Rotary and for that I am forever thankful so to all of you guys; thank you very very very very very much.
 
Laura
 
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