Two Centennial students, Kaitlyn Camera and Marissa Fish, each won Rotary Club scholarships, giving them the opportunity to travel abroad for a year to promote the organization’s message of peace. Amounting to around $24,000, it’ll also help cover the expenses of their trip in room and board. The experience is set to help the students broaden their view of the world and promote good foreign relations.
Interact club is the subset or high school version of Rotary Club; it is an international, non-profit organization that focuses on “promoting integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through our fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.”
Sophomore Marissa Fish said was informed about the scholarship and opportunity to travel abroad through an email from Leadership Johns Creek (a student leadership program). She then joined Interact and began attending Rotary meetings. The application also involved a lengthy process. Fish said, “I had a period of about three months from when I got into the program. I had to do a lot essays and get a lot of recommendations and be interviewed.”
In September this year, Fish goes to Italy. When asked if she got to choose her destination, she explained, “Going into this you were not guaranteed any country. You were always allowed to pick five of your top countries you were interested in and you could deny five countries,” she said, adding, “You could end up with a country you denied or end up with a country that wasn’t even on your list. ”
Guaranteeing a student the country of their choice is not always possible as it can depend on international affairs and finding host families. Fish said, “The first country that I put was Finland. And, I was told that I couldn’t go there because Finland, Sweden, and Norway are having different issues.”
When she found out she had won the scholarship, she said, “There was this big reveal at a restaurant where you would pop a balloon and inside was your country, and you got a flag. I was beyond excited. Europe is so amazing. And, for me, I didn’t care where I went, I just want the experience. That’s one of Rotary’s biggest things. You’ll be happy wherever you’re sent, and I could’ve ended up in Thailand and I would’ve been happy.”
In terms of dealing with the language barrier, she said, “I’ve already started learning. I’m trying to become pretty conversational in it. Rotary has provided me with a program called Pimsleur in which I can practice Italian. And, I practice on my own, I use Duolingo, I have an Italian tutor, and I talk to literally anyone I can find that speaks Italian. I just practice on my own whenever I can.” She added that by taking Spanish for the last four years, it has been helping her learn Italian for when she travels because they are both Romance languages.
Fish explained that during her stay in Italy she’ll have around two to three host families who she will stay with three to four months each. She commented that it’s a nice set-up so that way she gets to better understand how they live.
Kaitlyn Camera is headed to France
Freshman Kaitlyn Camera said she had a similar experience in getting into the scholarship through Interact Club. She said, “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always been interested in studying abroad and learning other languages.”
Camera explains that she will be going to the south of France near the east coast. She said, “I’m really excited, but I’m nervous too because I’m not fluent in French, so I’ll have to learn a lot about it.”
France was fortunately also her top choice which works with her experience in taking French for four years already, plus the language camps the program offers.
While applying, Camera said the process “is very long. It started off where you had to go to an informational session that was listed on Rotary’s website, and there you got info about the application. The application had three different essays, and you had to write a letter to your future host family, and then you had to get things signed by your doctor, your dentist; you had to get recommendation forms and you had to find a Rotary club to sponsor you that is in the area. Those who got through the application process, we had an interview for our district. . . there they picked eight students to go abroad.”
When asked how her parents felt about her trip Camera said, “At first, they were really hesitant to let me go abroad for a whole entire year on my own. But, since I’ve been wanting to do this for such a long time, I’ve slowly warmed them up to the prospect of me going abroad. And now they’re fully supportive of it and they’re helping me getting through the process. It really requires an open mind for parents.”
This trip is especially befitting for Camera since she wants “to become a diplomat. So, I want to work with the United Nations or with the Department of State in the U.S. to be a foreign service officer. So anything that involves going abroad and helping others.”
When it comes to obstacles Camera said, “Next year, I’m very nervous that I’m going to be put in situations where I don’t know the language. I don’t know the customs or the culture. And, I’m going to have to improvise and make things up as I go along, trying to figure out what people are saying to me and how I should act.”
Their departure depends on when schools starts in the country they go to and Camera said that for French exchange students it’ll be around late Aug. and return the following year in June or July. She also added, “Even when you get in, you’re still being evaluated based on if you’re good enough to be in the program. So you have different orientation sessions that have to go to over that are in Florida over the weekends, you have to learn your language intensively. . .you have essays to write, assignments to complete, emails to respond to. So, definitely after you’re admitted it’s a rigorous program. ”