NORWICH – Do you know any Chenango County teens who have ridden camels in India? How about any who have braved a Siberian winter, stood from atop glaciers in Patagonia or won a French high school film festival?
Thanks to Rotary International, an organization of benevolence that boasts hundreds of thousands of chapters in cities all around the world, there are indeed adolescents and citizens of all ages in Chenango County who have had such international adventures.
The Rotary Youth Exchange program offers a means for high school-aged students from around the world to trade places in the homes and high schools of students in other countries. At this point, the Norwich Rotary Club has sent dozens of students to South America, Europe and Asia for yearlong exchanges. Consequently, Norwich High School and various host families have welcomed dozens of international students.
Next year, the Norwich Rotary Club will send off two teens who will be part of the global 9,000 who go on exchange annually: Alyssa MacIntosh, who will head off to Brazil, and Jason Handy, who will go to Germany. For the past two years, Rotary District 7170, which covers Chenango, Delaware, Broome, Tioga, Tompkins, Cortland, and Otsego counties, has interviewed 50 students for 32 exchange student positions. MacIntosh and Handy, both from Norwich, were two of the 32 students to be accepted by this district. Now, they are just weeks away from boarding their planes to South America and Europe, respectively.
So what motivates these 16-year-olds to sign themselves up for a program in which they will live away from their comfort zones for an entire year? Handy says of his upcoming exchange, “I love my hometown, but I want to get more of a global experience before I graduate.” He’s also excited to live in an environment in which he can try new activities and sports that he wouldn’t necessarily be able to try in Norwich. MacIntosh says that the Rotary program offered an experience she couldn’t pass up. It’s a way to explore another corner of the world for a year with the safety net of an internationally-recognized organization to support her...