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August 22, 2013

Students travel overseas through exchange program

While most local students are preparing to head back to school, a few will be taking on a new experience by living in a different country.

Each year, more than 8,000 students participate in the Rotary Youth Exchange program worldwide, learning a new language and experiencing a new culture, through the efforts of Rotary volunteers around the globe. Students will live overseas with one to four host families, attend a local school and immerse themselves in a new culture.

As students are learning, they will also teach the people they meet about the U.S.

Doug Geertgens, chairman of the Cooperstown club, said the Rotary Youth Exchange District 7170 exchanges with about 20 countries each year.

“It varies from year to year,” he said. “For example, Switzerland was recently added as was Taiwan, and Peru was dropped. Australia will no longer be part of our exchange after this year.”

Cooperstown is just one club that makes up District 7170. Other area clubs include Richfield Springs/Cherry Valley-Springfield, Milford, Edmeston, Schenevus/Worcester, Morris and Oneonta.

Cooperstown will be hosting the fall inbound orientation program in early September. According to Geertgens, there will be 34 students in attendance, which means the district is sending 34 students abroad. Cooperstown will be sending five students.

One of those students is Caitlin Briggs, who will leave for Brazil on Aug. 26. Briggs said she has loved traveling ever since she was a little kid.

“My family would go on vacations throughout the year and I loved going to new places,” she said.

Over the last few years, Briggs said she has become very good friends with exchange students, inbound and outbound.

“I would spend hours listening to their stories and I no longer wanted to just sit and listen,” she said.

The 17-year-old sought to create her own memories and experiences. Briggs said she wanted to challenge herself and learn a new way of life as well as break the stereotypes people have of Americans.

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