Seaholm High School sophomore Rachel Lee is excited to be getting out of the country, thanks to the Birmingham Rotary Club.As part of the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, Lee will spending her junior year study abroad. According to Rotary President Mark Farlow, this is the first student Rotary has sponsored since Farlow joined the Rotary six years ago.As part of the program, Rotary will fund the costs of insurance and a portion of her expenses, while Lee's family will pay for the bulk of her travel.I was pretty happy to get accepted,Lee said.
Lee was inspired to apply for the program by her mother. Her mother, Melissa Lee participated in a similar program Youth for Understanding when she was her daughter's age, studying abroad in Germany.I was amazed at being able to go to a different place in the world, where everybody was living by different rules and standards,Melissa said.It was my first real understanding of language barriers.Lee won't find out what country she will be living in until January, but she hopes to be placed in Germany like her mother. However, she said she wouldn't be disappointed if she were placed in Spain or Thailand, her second and third choice. Lee already has experience living abroad, and said being placed in Spain would be easy after spending a few years living in Mexico with her family.
Since her family moved back to Michigan six years ago, Lee said she has still been searching for inspiration and her place in the world. Although she enjoys many aspects of school, her mom noted Lee has been a bit bored with her routine and is excited about shaking things up a bit.
I'm not afraid to try new things, Lee said.I think this is a good opportunity to make new friends, maybe learn a new language, and build my character while being entirely submerged in a different culture.While spending time away from family and friends may be intimidating for some, Lee isn't worried. While she said she would miss her younger brother the most, Lee said Skype and Facebook will allow her to stay in touch with those close to her.
During her stay, Bob Baker, Outbound Chair for the Youth Exchange Program, said she will most likely stay with three different host families since the program is set up to provide relief for the families.Hopefully it will expand her hosts' impression of the world,Farlow, said.Lee isn't too worried about fitting in with her host family. She said she hopes her host family shares her her love for music, especially coming from such a musical family: Lee plays the trumpet, her mom sings her father plays the accordion and her brother the saxophone.While Lee is abroad, her parents are planning on hosting an exchange student.I think that's the fair thing to do, Melissa said.It will spin the time she's gone to make it go by fasterI miss her already.