Anna Whisenant will be doing something that hasn’t been done often, and not for many years.
On Aug. 23, Whisenant will be boarding a plane for Seoul, South Korea, to spend her junior year in Uiwang, a satellite city of South Korea’s capital.
Whisenant will attend school there to immerse herself in Korea’s culture and language, with the ultimate goal of coming home bilingual and bicultural. She will live with two or three host families during the year, who will mentor her and share their traditions.
Whisenant and her mother, Marie, had to dig around a bit to find this opportunity. Platteville High School had limited information on two programs, “one was quite costly and another whose website looked ‘sketchy,’” said Marie.
Marie was familiar with Rotary Youth Exchange. She contacted area Rotary clubs to see if she could find an area club interested in hosting Anna.
“The Mount Horeb Rotary Club welcomed her with open arms, and has been extremely supportive of Anna,” said Marie. “They’ve included her in Rotary meetings and programs, invited her to speak to the club about Korea, and even took up a collection for her to have some spending money on her journey.”
Anna’s eight months of preparation have included participation in several Rotary conferences with other area exchange students, where she met students from France, Germany, Slovakia, Chile, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Denmark, South Africa and other countries. She networked with other outbound students, “inbound” students — students from other countries currently spending their year in the U.S. — and “rebound” students, who have recently returned to the U.S. after their year abroad.
Anna has learned about culture shock and “reverse culture shock,” which a student typically experiences as they try to reorient themselves to their home country after a year of language and culture immersion in another country. She’s heard from rebounds about everything from how to deal with a challenging host family situation to how to manage money overseas. She’s picked up tips on learning the Korean language and what to pack (and not to pack!) for her year-long journey.
Anna has also learned about Rotary International’s motto of “Service Beyond Self.” As a non-profit service organization, Rotary exposes students to a culture and tradition of community service. One of the goals of Rotary Youth Exchange is to promote the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace at the person to person level. Youth Exchange is for those who want to make a difference in their world.
“My husband, Brian, and I have thoroughly enjoyed their involvement thus far with Rotary Youth Exchange, particularly meeting other exchange families and Rotarians involved with the program,” said Marie. She plans to work with current area Rotarians to re-establish a Rotary club in Platteville, and hopefully bring the Rotary Youth Exchange program to town.
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