Rotary Happenings: Club bids farewell to youth exchange student from Taiwan
Back from vacation just in time to say goodbye to our Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Youth Exchange student for 2018-2019, Li-sen Chou from New Taipei City, Taiwan. Li-sen came to the states a shy young 15-year-old and will return home a more confident and outgoing 16-year-old. Recently, Li-sen spoke to the club about his overall experience taking part in the Rotary program and the personal growth that the program has allowed him to advance. It’s not easy to be a high school student traveling 7,619 miles from home with just a few personal possessions and the faith in a promise of an experience that will change your life in a positive way forever. It takes quite a leap of faith and a brave spirit. Each student in our exchange program is required to become aware of and sign a Rules and Conditions of Exchange document regarding behavior, school protocol, Rotary’s 4 Ds – Dating, Drinking, Driving and Drugs – smoking, social media and travel. Each student must understand that they are a representative of themselves, their family and their country.
Li-sen had put together a video of his journey to the states and how his school year progressed. He started by introducing his native country of Taiwan, a country that is five times smaller than the states with a population of around 23 million and a country in which you may hear 35 languages spoken. He gave us an overview of his life in Taiwan, from foods he enjoyed to holidays his family celebrated. Li-sen’s dad is a Rotarian and no doubt the reason Li-sen took part in the youth exchange. He also explained that student life at the private school he attends in Taiwan is extremely regimented with a prescribed curriculum, long days, long periods of study and no extra-curricular activities. As with most of the exchange students, Li-sen will not get any educational credit for his time at school here in the states and will have to repeat his academic year back in his native country.
But now onward to his exchange experience. It is typical of the exchange to encourage diversity in the experiences of the student. This sometimes starts with a plan to have more than one host family for their school-year stay. Li-sen was hosted by three families in Lee County and got the opportunity to attend two different high schools – South Fort Myers and Cypress Lake High – as a junior. His favorite class was biology and that momentarily may be something he pursues for advanced studies. He was surprised by the shortest of class periods and the ability to choose courses. But most of all beyond his studies experience, Li-sen got to join the junior varsity basketball team at Cypress Lake and participate in his favorite sport of all time. Yeah!
Host families, Sanibel-Captiva Rotarians, Rotary District 6960, and the exchange program itself provided outside fun activities for Li-sen – fishing, boating, basketball and baseball games, planned activities to get exchange students together on a regular basis to share their experiences with each other and have fun and learn about each other representing countries from all over the world. A four-day experience at Disney, planned trip to Washington, D.C., attendance at district and club Rotary activities such as conferences and fund-raising events, and representing the exchange program provided opportunities to grow and learn. Li-sen took part in many of our Sanibel-Captiva Rotary activities, and you could definitely see his spirit grow toward being part of the group and becoming more actively involved as time went by. Sanibel-Captiva Rotary is proud of our participation in the exchange program and especially proud of Li-sen and his willingness to be part of the program and thrive. Fond farewell and hope to see you again our friend, Li-sen. Remember, “It’s a small world after all” and the more we learn about each other, the better understanding we have of each other.
Special thanks to Sanibel-Captiva Rotarians Holli Martin, Richard Green, Jack Alexander and their families for guiding Li-sen during his time with us. You were the wings beneath his feet.
For information about the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary. The club meets every Friday at 7 a.m. at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, at 949 Sand Castle Road, Sanibel; visitors are welcome to attend.