Rotary scholarship offers opportunities beyond CF

By: Allie Taiber

What would it take for you to leave everything you’ve ever known? Well for me, it didn’t take much. In about four months, I’ll be packing up my life and heading over to France all alone for an entire year.

The idea was first planted in my head last summer on a coffee date with an old friend as he dumped the news on me that he was leaving for Spain in three weeks and would be living there for the entire year. As he was sharing this with me, the thought of embarking on such an adventure inspired me immensely to do the same.

As we continued talking about how he was making it possible, why he was going and what it all meant, I began to look into it. Turns out he was studying abroad through Rotary International, an international service organization whose stated human rights purpose is to bring together professional leaders, to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. A phenomenal group.

Yet at first, it solidified as nothing but a crazy idea. How would I leave all of my friends? How would I leave my family? Who would want to miss out on her senior year?

However, after seriously analyzing where I was in my life, what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go, I decided that the opportunity I had been presented with was far too incredible to pass up. A senior year of high school versus a life changing year abroad? The answer was obvious.

The last year of my life had felt like it had lost it’s purpose. I was continually just going through the motions. Sure, I had plenty of great friends, and not to mention a fantastic family, but I had always known there was so much more. Iowa is fantastic, but here in the high school, with the same people day by day, test after test, party after party, I knew I was ready for much more.

Many experiences over the past year had caused me to question who I truly was or even why we’re all here, but little did I know that many of these negative, challenging thoughts and situations were preparing me for greater personal growth.

A big milestone was last summer when I was attending my usual summer camp, but this time as an LIT (leader in training), where I would meet some of the most amazing individuals I had ever come across, share amazing adventures with so many and make a memory every day. After those three weeks, a reality check was installed about how much the world really has to offer.

Upon this particular time, following my beloved summer camp and questioning what was going on around me was when I had met up with my friend, and it was as if almost everything was falling into place.

After falling out of several friendships and becoming more in touch with who I was and the world around us, I came out of this challenging time happier than ever and extremely grateful for the opportunity.

Now accepted as a 2016-2017 Outbound Foreign Exchange Student to France, I will be on my way in August. I will attend high school, live with host families and experience true European culture. I will also earn the added benefits of traveling with Rotary Youth Exchange by immersing myself into considerable leadership positions, going out of my comfort zones and gaining positive, long lasting experiences that will only serve to enhance my understanding and tolerance of others.

I officially committed to the program last semester and decided to graduate a year in advance as it would be the best decision for my situation, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy.

Through this process, the workload has been crazy. A lot of things have changed, and, overall, it’s been pretty stressful, but working hard to achieve this goal, I have the received help, support and guidance from my school counselor, teachers, friends and family, not to mention all of the amazing people I’ve met along the way.

Through the exchange program I hope to gain experiences and knowledge about other cultures. I hope to strengthen my international understanding of the world and myself. I hope to be bilingual. I hope to have a great empathy and understanding of others. I hope to experience true adventure on the other side of the world. I hope to grow as an individual. I hope to experience intimate human connection. I hope to be challenged. I hope to expose myself to new and interesting adventures, and I also hope for much more. Why not take the risks available?

Many say that it isn’t a year abroad, but a whole life in a year, and that’s exactly why I’m doing it, and that’s why I think you should too. Check out the program. So many people view these kinds of experiences as extremely unrealistic, yet they’d love to do it. Take the leap of faith and really live your life. Maybe that doesn’t mean studying abroad, or maybe it does, but whatever you decide, do it with purpose.

So take the chance and apply. Apply for a one of a kind and life changing year.

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