Devika Ratanpal – Wellington NZ
3 months in Australia flew by so quickly it seems like a dream. It was one of the best 3 months of my life ever. I arrived at Adelaide Airport on the 6th of April. I was tired after an early morning and very very nervous to meet my new family and my mentors. It was good to know that the other girls on the exchange were feeling the same as me! We are all in it together. When I first saw my family I was obviously a bit shy but they were all lovely and welcoming. We went out for lunch and that’s when I knew that this 3 month bond would last a long time. The exchange was like a rollercoaster with its ups and its downs. It was completely different to my old life at home. I am from a big town and go to a school of around 1200 kids year 9-13, in Australia, I was in a little town of a 100 and the school only had 100 students year 1-12. It took time getting used to and feeling part of the family. I was kept busy with school, friends, touring around Adelaide that I didn’t have time to miss my family! I am very lucky that I got to do many things in Australia like visit many zoos, feed kangaroos, hold a koala, visit huge shopping malls, play netball for a club, learn Aussie Rules and much much more. The safari was also a big highlight going around Sydney and Canberra with other New Zealanders! It was nice to hear familiar accents and see more of Australia. Nildottie society and the Weibrecht family and Swan Reach Area School accepted me, my accent and my strange ways and made me feel very much at home, I even managed to come home with a bit of an Aussie twang! I want to thank everyone who contributed to making my exchange the best and would advise everyone and anyone to try it out!! Thank you so much Rotary for making this possible!
Jessie McDiarmid – Murray Bridge
My name is Jessie McDiarmid and I was a RANZSE exchange student in 2013. I had the time of my life and couldn’t recommend it more highly to other students! This exchange program is honestly a life-changing and knowledge filled experience. This exchange brings challenges, lifelong memories and friends and many experiences! I had many different experiences. At the start of my stay I was placed in a family I didn’t know and for the first week, I was so homesick that I was not able to get out and do things. After I had got over the homesickness I was having a blast! I made many friends and was going to so many amazing places! Safari is when the Rotary take you and the other students in your district away for a week and you go on one if the best weeks in your life! This was honestly the best thing, you become a family and do the most amazing things, including conquering your fears, exploring the world, and so many fun activities! Having a new cultural experience with a new family, school and town! Now I have been back home and I have seen a huge change, I am so much more confident, independent, responsible and I am more myself! I recommend this program to any student who is interested in new things, travelling, meeting people, finding out more about the world or even just wanting to be more independent.
SOPHIE SUTHERLAND – Keri Keri
My name is Sophie Sutherland and I am a Kiwi who participated in the RANZSE program. I speak highly of the program as I have gained so much confidence from it, and I enjoyed myself along the way. When I was in Australia not everything when according to plan, but with the guidance of my Rotary Counselors I managed to pick myself up and enjoy the time I had in Australia. Every day I think of all great times I had there; all the friends I made; all the memories. I wouldn’t change anything for the world, and I would go back to that time in a heartbeat. I love all the people I met and I have made some great friends in another country. I would recommend doing this program very much; it was an amazing experience that I will treasure forever.
RENEE MOXHAM – Waikerie
In 2012, as part of the Rotary short-term exchange, I was paired with Gina Astbury and we both had the time of our lives sharing the experience together. I was first to fly over, and I was quite nervous going to live with a family who I have never met before. Her family was very welcoming and I felt at home very quickly! I felt very lucky to be shown around Northland, while still engaging in local activities.
The highlight of my trip was a weekend road trip up to the most Northerly point of the country, Cape Reinga, then down to the beautiful Bay of Islands with Gina and her parents. A new skill I learnt while staying with Gina is how to ride a horse (it’s not as easy as it looks!). It was something I had never done before, and by the end of it I was competing in a horse show at Whangarei.
In the last couple weeks, all the ‘Aussie’ exchange students from the North Island went to Taupo and Rotorua for 8 days. It almost felt like home seeing everyone, and I grew many close bonds with people from all over Australia. I was sad to leave New Zealand and all the new friendships I had made, but I was excited to come home to see my friends and family, and to show Gina the Australian way of life.
When I got home, it was hard trying to fit back in and catch up with everyone, while still trying to make Gina feel comfortable. It was sad to see Gina go, and it felt weird not seeing her for a couple weeks. It’s hard to see someone every day for six months, then they’re just gone. In a way, it was like having a sister for half a year, because we shared everything and went everywhere together.
I had an open mind and was willing to try new things. I felt like I got the most out of the experience possible. There isn’t anything I regret, and I wish I could’ve stayed for longer!Overall, I would highly recommend this to anyone who wishes to gain confidence and independence while meeting new people and having fun. Thank you to Rotary for providing me with this opportunity I will never forget!
MADDIE ZIEGLER – Waikerie
My name is Maddie Ziegler and I was one of the lucky students who was chosen to be a part of the Rotary Student Exchange. On the 1st of April, my journey began, I was both excited and nervous as I was uncertain of what this experience may hold. What can I say I had the time of my life and couldn’t have asked for a better family to share my experience with. I spent 3 months living in the town of Timaru situated 2hrs from Christchurch on the South Island. My host family took me to some of the most breathtaking places; I was able to see Mount Cook in all its glory and how many 16-year-olds can say that.
As a part of the exchange, I attend a week safari in Queenstown. This week was design for all the Australians on the South Island to come together and get to know one another. This was one of the highlights of my trip; I had a lot of fun and walked away with new friendships. I’m not going to lie it wasn’t all fun and games, I had my ups and downs. There were days were I just pined for things back home, my friends, family and most of all my things back home, my friends, family and most of all my sister. I am so grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity. I have come away with thousands of unforgettable memories, photos and stories to share. I would definitely recommend participating in a Student Exchange, you will walk away with new friendships, memories and will grow as a person. I know I definitely have. Thank you again to everyone who made this experience possible.
ASHLEE MORGAN – KUNNUNARA
My name is Ashlee Morgan from Kunnunara in Western Australia. My exchange to New Zealand was adventurous, exhilarating, and mind-blowing. 12 weeks of staying in a new home, with a new family, and a welcoming new lifestyle. A family that takes you in generously, a family that impacts your experience exceedingly, a family that was at first, names on a piece of paper. What could you be thinking? What are your expectations? Whatever thoughts are in your mind about your future exchange, forget about it. The exchange is nothing like you expected it to be, but it is everything you wanted it to be.
My experiences were breathtaking. I did an 87km canoe trip down the Wanganui River during which I happened to capsize down a rapid that left me absolutely freezing. Adjusting to the temperature in New Zealand first hit me, going from singlet and shorts at home, to thermal clothing, ugg boots and beanies.
Believe it or not, the days I spent at school during the exchange are what I will cherish most. A different uniform, teachers, students, environment and classes. I will never forget the friends I made, nor will I forget when they laughed at my accent. I will always have the memory of all my friends meeting me at the bus stop to say goodbye, hugs nonstop, writing on my shirt and a lot of photos.
Little things like; flooding your host families bathroom, asking help from your host sisters, staying up late talking, curling each other’s hair, choosing movies together, watching them eat vegemite to make me happy, teaching each other the national anthem and cooking meals together is what makes this exchange so great. Sometimes the little things can make such a significant impact.
The safari was amazing, travelling with other Australians across the North Island. A week with other exchange students, going through the exact program as you; you can only imagine what would happen when you put 20 Australians in a town… screaming out “AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE OI OI OI” wherever we went. I grew so close to everyone, creating friendships, creating memories that will always be a part of me.
This exchange has helped me grow; grow into a confident person. It’s helped me realise a lot, it has also given me a bigger outlook on the world and has inspired me to want to travel. I have fully embraced being a Rotary student. I have gained many friends, and basically a new family. This exchange has helped shape me into the person I am today. I encourage anyone to try for Rotary Exchange. It’s one of the best experiences of your life.