THE Rotary Club of Denman will bid local girl Sophie Arvidson ‘tchau’ (’bye in Portuguese) in January when the 17-year-old jets off to live with a family in Brazil as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program.
The St Joseph’s Year 11 student is utterly excited about the upcoming adventure and wants other high school pupils to know about Rotary Clubs and the travel opportunities they offer.
The fact she will have to complete an extra year of schooling hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm.
“I’m 100 per cent happy to make that concession,” Sophie says.
“Being overseas for 12 months will be such an experience I would never have been able to have without Rotary, gaining so much independence and so many life skills.”
Sophie has seven weeks left on Australian soil then will take up residence in the town of Aguas de Lindoia, in the State of Sao Paulo.
There are 16 students known as “outbounders” from Rotary District 9670, which stretches from Newcastle to Cobar and also encompasses Murrurundi, Mudgee and Bourke.
Sophie and four others from the Upper Hunter will live with a couple of different families, learn the local language and attend school.
Scone’s Sara Schofield and Holly Meier will travel to Austria and the Netherlands respectively, while Singleton’s Navajo Higgins will live in Slovakia and Muswellbrook’s Meg Rankin will reside in Sweden.
In return, three generous local families are currently hosting “inbounders” Michal Gažo of Slovakia at Parkville, Sofie Toft of Denmark at Scone, and Birte Mönnig from Germany who will stay in Muswellbrook.
“You can apply online,” Sophie said.
“It would be a real shame if others in the district didn’t take the opportunity to apply for these positions next year.”
Sophie’s family often travels, all five of them, her parents and two elder siblings pack up almost every year and set off to different parts of Asia.
“My parents are very big on travelling,” she said.
“They want us kids to experience the world.
“They’re very happy I’m going – well … 90 per cent happy because they’ll miss me but they’re already planning to visit in July.”
Rotary Youth Exchange committee chair David Roach said the program was “brilliant”.
“The students invariably come back and say it was the best thing they’ve ever done in their lives, it’s literally a life changing experience,” Mr Roach said.
He said next year’s applications need to be in by May and students will be interviewed at club and district level then attend information and preparation weekends.
Rotary Club of Denman president Graeme Pearson said Sophie was a personable and outgoing young woman.
“Sophie will do Rotary proud,” he said.
“The destination will certainly be challenging, not all peaches and cream but she’s lucky that she already has travelling experience.”
There is plenty of Rotary support for the students while overseas with a Youth Exchange Officer in Australia and local club counsellor in Brazil.
Mr Pearson’s wife Lynda will also be Sophie’s Australian counsellor as part of the support network.
The local Rotary Club also provides each student with an allowance of about $130 a month.