Sydney Storie is clearly excited. That much was evident as the 16-year-old BCSS Grade 11 student sat down for an interview at her kitchen table in Rock Creek just a few short days before her departure on a Rotary Youth Exchange trip to Brazil.
She’d spread Portuguese phrase books, dictionaries and language instruction CDs on the table, along with her business card – more appropriately an introduction card and a pamphlet from Rotary District 4510 in Brazil that explains a bit of what she can expect during her year-long stay in the country.
She already knows that she will be staying with four Rotary families in a town of 12,000 called Pacaembu in São Paulo state.
She is busy learning Portuguese. “I am learning the basics so that I know that when I arrive at the airport I will know how to find my way and I will know how to start a conversation and say hello and thank you.”
Sydney says that most, but not all, Brazilians speak a bit of English. “My second host family, they don’t know any English – all they speak is Portuguese, so it’s going to be rather tough. I hope that once I am done the exchange… I will be fluent in Portuguese.”
According to the District 4510 pamphlet, Portuguese is the eighth most-spoken language in the world and the third among the western languages, after English and Spanish. “Speaking English as a first or second language is essential,” says the pamphlet, “but the third language for business world is Mandarin or Portuguese, and learning one of those languages is what makes a competitive difference.”
Sydney said she’s excited about being a Rotary exchange student. “It kind of hit me that it would be a really neat experience to travel, experience different culture and be fluent in that language.”
She contacted the Rotary District 5080 in Grand Forks and after a series of interviews received an email saying that she had been chosen to participate in the Rotary Youth Exchange program.
District 5080 covers the area east from Rock Creek through the Kootenays and across the international border, taking in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Sydney said there are between 17 and 25 youth from District 5080 on exchanges throughout the world.
After much paperwork she found out she would be going to Brazil. Then it was time to begin learning about her host country and the exchange program itself.
In May she went to Spokane to attend a Rotary camp where all the ‘outbounds’ get together with all the ‘inbounds’ (those currently visiting the district) to get some first-hand advice on how to prepare for the trip. Sydney has also been getting helpful tips from Callie Williamson, another BCSS student who is soon to return from her own Rotary exchange trip to Japan.
Meanwhile Rotary members in both countries worked to organize her trip.
As an ambassador for Rotary as well as Canada and, indeed of the Boundary, Sydney made sure to explain that Rotary is a service organization that “helps build goodwill and peace and it improves the quality of life in their communities.”
“I really want to thank Rotary International for letting me have this opportunity. I want to thank my host families and everyone who has been helping me.”
Referring to her notes, she came out with a bit of Portuguese at the close of the interview. “Vou ver todos vocês em um ano,” she said – telling me it means, “I’ll be back in one year.”