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Welcome back Youth Exchange alumni Zicka Christen

by Susan Davidson

There is no greater force in the promotion of peace than the understanding and respect of different cultures. The world becomes a smaller, friendlier place when we learn that all people – regardless of race or ethnic origin – desire the same basic things. The Rotary Youth Exchange Program offers this opportunity and BEL Rotary has a proud history of participation in this program.

Last week BEL Rotarians and friends enjoyed a return visit and wonderful presentation from former exchange student Zicka Christen. Zicka was hosted by the BEL Club during the 2005/2006 Rotary year and won the hearts of club and community members alike. In her address, Zicka described her year in Canada as the “happiest year of her life”. “I learned and experienced so much and it is hard to believe what I was able to fit into one year”, said Christen. “It had a huge impact on my life. I got to do so much thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of the club and my host parents. During my year I grew in self-confidence, gained a better understanding of myself and the world around me, became more outgoing and developed new friends and family from all over the world!”

Upon returning to Switzerland at the end of her exchange year, Christen completed high school and then went on to study history at university, and has completed her graduate degree at Oxford University and subsequently her law degree (also at Oxford). She has also worked for the Swiss Foreign Service in Brussels and Amnesty International in Geneva.

The Rotary Youth Exchange Program started in 1927 and has grown to include 82 countries sending and hosting 8000 students a year. High school age students are sponsored by a Rotary club and live in a host country for a year. They are hosted by individual families, attend school and become immersed in the culture of the country. For more information about the program go www.rotary7010.org and click on the New Generations link.

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