Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow This line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet fits perfectly the mood at the Moruya Rotary Club. They were farewelling Ariane Vibert a vibrant young exchange student from a small town in Quebec Province, Canada. She had become part of the club during her one year stay. In her final speech she said, ‘I remember my first Rotary meeting like it was yesterday. I was absolutely terrified. I had so much trouble understanding what was happening around me.’ Even so the boisterous group of fifty quietened as she told the story of her French speaking home town Sept Iles named after seven islands in the St Lawrence River.
I asked Ariane how she came to be here. She said, ‘I did not know about Rotary. I was looking at exchange programs. I did a lot of research. Then a lady from Rotary came to our school and talked about the programs it was operating. I applied that same night.’
Ariane is a qualified ski instructor and one of her first school excursion was to the Snowies. Her skill helped her to be accepted by classmates. When asked about the stand out experience she rolled her eyes and smiled, ‘I hate that question. But I think having the chance to be a lifesaver in summer on the beach out here, was really good.’ Again she is a qualified lifesaver back home.
She found school here more demanding than in Sept Iles, ‘We don’t have so many classes in the day. Here you have 7 classes. You have more subject choices here. I did agriculture which was really good. Different to anything I had had before.’ She was amazed, ‘They have cows at Moruya High and we don’t really have that at school. I was hoping that coming here would help me know what I want to do next year when I go to college but what it has done is given me more options. I have no idea what I want to do next year.’
It was not always easy. ‘I’ve had some pretty hard times here but now I can see the positive side to it … I’ve never been a confident person but this exchange really got me out of my comfort zone and I gained so much confidence.’ I remembered other exchange students expressing similar thoughts.
I asked her about working with Moruya Rotary. She said, ‘It’s really good, all lovely people and doing great things and being part of that has been really good.’ I prompted about Rotarians being a bit older. She admitted, ‘It was a bit hard at first and I got used to it.’
At the February meeting she was joined by Maddy Fisk our Moruya High exchange student who had just returned from a year in Italy. And the Moruya 2019 exchange students Annabel Smith who is going to Switzerland where the official languages are German, French, Italian and Romansch and Billie Williams who will have the joy of learning Japanese.
Bernie Wonder was Rotary's Youth Director in 2017-18. Together with Wendy Smith, another Moruya Rotarian, he interviewed the Aussie candidates for 2019 exchanges and was involved with both outgoing and incoming Youth Exchange students over the past two years.
Bernie said, ‘The Youth Exchange Program is a catalyst that accelerates and broadens the development of our youth in Moruya though exposure to new ideas, cultures and peoples. It truly is Rotary helping to build a better community for the future.’ Surely this is a necessity.
Chris and Jude Manahan, Ariane’s last host family said, ‘It has been a rewarding experience having Ariane stay with us for the last 3 months. We have enjoyed sharing our home space with her as it keeps us in touch with the younger generation and we enjoyed her stories from home. We have enjoyed showing her some of the sights of the Eurobodalla by kayak, bicycle and walking and in return it has kept us fit.’ It is not uncommon for exchange students and hosts become life-long friends.
Ariane finished her speech confidently, ‘Even though it’s really hard to think that this incredible experience is coming to an end, I’ve never felt more ready for the next chapter of my life! I’m going to go into college with a fresh look on everything and a second language in my pocket’.
Above: Moruya Rotary Club says farewell.
Above: A jacket full of memories.