By Laura Stovel
Last weekend, in the spectacular setting of Rogers Pass, a special kind of international diplomatic training took place. Sixty-three Rotary high school exchange students, who came from, or were heading to, 23 countries, met for the 33rrd annual Weekend in the Mountains.
The two-day gathering is meant to promote friendships and mutual learning between exchange students, and to help prepare Canadian and American students, who will leave for their host countries in August, for a year of living and studying overseas.
Jenica Frisque, a former exchange student who lived in Argentina ten years ago, had these words of advice for outbound students: “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break;” “It’s not better or worse, it’s just different;” and “If it is to be it’s up to me.”
The positive attitude, lack of judgment and willingness to learn and try new things reflected in these sayings are keys to a successful exchange experience.
The Revelstoke Rotary Club has been hosting this event at Glacier Park Lodge for 33 years. Students and chaperones come to Rogers Pass from across Rotary District 5060, which covers much of southern BC and part of Washington State. As organizer Graham Harper pointed out, many of the students were encountering more snow than they had in their lifetime and they loved it. The Rotarians built a tubing run, and youth from Thailand, Peru, Mexico and the Philippines were among those who gleefully slid down the icy track on a giant inner tube.
“This event is one of the most impactful that we have in the district,” said Revelstoke Rotarian Chuck Beerling. “You may have people from different countries with different perspectives” but once youth get together and forge relationships they can overcome national prejudices.
Linda Beerling, who has been volunteering for the event for 28 years, gave an example. About 25 years ago, a German boy was told to share a room with a South African boy. The German boy said he disliked South Africans and asked for another room – a request that was refused. During the weekend, the boys talked and grew close and at the final banquet, the German boy asked to carry the South African flag. “Seeing stuff like that” makes my involvement worthwhile, Beerling said. “Just seeing all these great kids. What better way to spend a weekend?”
Every autumn, students in grades 11 and 12 have an opportunity to apply for the year-long exchange which is advertised at the high school.
Here are a few images from this event: