ImageOpportunity for high school students to study overseas for a year.

 If you would like the opportunity to spend an academic year learning another language and culture under the auspices of Rotary, contact Jeff lichty at or 248-625-4244.  Read what one student had to say. 

 Three years ago if someone had asked me what I’d be doing my junior year in high school it would have been something along the lines of “ACT preparation, studying, or something else of the daily grind. I had no idea then that my life was going to change forever.

     I’ve been familiar with the Rotary Club since winning the Pontiac Rotary Club’s student of the month award in middle school, but other than that I had no idea what they were about. That all changed when my younger brother won the same award from them two years ago. He and my father came home from the ceremony talking about exchange students and studying abroad, which immediately piqued my interest. It turned out that the Rotary Club has a longstanding Youth Exchange Program for high school students to spend ten months abroad on an exchange. This chance meeting came at a time when I was eligible to participate. Several meetings with the Pontiac Rotary Club and the Ohio-Erie Rotary district later, I was set up to spend a year in Germany!

     I’m a firm believer that things that seem too good to be true probably are, but Rotary really was the exception to this rule. They promised us that with our cooperation we would come back bilingual, bicultural, and as true global citizens with a well-rounded view of the world. They were right.

     I spent my ten months away in a resort town called Cuxhaven on the north coast of Germany,. There I lived with four host families in different parts of the city and attended school at the local Gymnasium (a college track high school). I can safely assure anyone who doesn’t already know how rigorous school in Germany is and how self-motivated and hardworking they are. The Gymnasium is run very much like a college here in the US with the pressure to succeed on the students. Our teachers rarely checked our homework but expected us to do well on their tests.

     Before I left I had no idea that Germany was so different from the United States, but it really was. The city I stayed in was small in contrast to the large city-setting of metro-Detroit that I’m used to, and it was positioned right on the ocean which made for absolutely gorgeous scenery.

     While I was there and learning German, I was learning about the culture too. Transportation is probably one of the biggest differences between the US and Europe. Bikes are a huge deal, and everyone biked everywhere within a five to maybe eight mile radius, which was definitely something to adjust too, me being the car loving American that I am. Trains are huge there too, and a train in Germany can genuinely take you anywhere you might want to go and all within fifteen hours from the north to the southernmost tip. I did my fair share of traveling not only in Germany but across the entire continent thanks to a European Tour collaborated by the Rotary Club.  The trip included a bus full of international students from around the globe, all on exchange in Germany. Now if someone asks me what my favorite cities are, I can say Prague, Berlin, and Brussels in addition to New York and Detroi,t which is very exciting.

     All this seems rather fine and good, but there must be some question as to how this trip influenced me. Oh ,would that I could count the ways! Before last year I’d never left the country, and now all of a sudden I’ve been gallivanting all over Europe, I have friends from everywhere from Germany to Taiwan, I’ve learned a new language- something I never thought I’d be able to say, and I can proudly call myself bicultural. Being an exchange student makes you realize both how large the world is and how narrow your view of it was. Now that college application time has come around, I’m looking not only at where the campus is here, but what their study abroad programs are, how long they run, etc. because now, not only do I have the desire to go, I have people there to go back to. I’m seriously considering moving to Germany after college because of how much I love it there.

     So that’s my experience in a nutshell: how the world became my oyster, and all thanks to pure chance. But that’s another thing my year taught me: seize the moment and live every second, because you never know if or when you’ll get the chance to do something again.