Every year, the local Rotary Foundation district participates in a Group Study Exchange (GSE) with a Rotary district in another country. The idea behind the exchange is that the local district sends 5 people over to the remote district for 4 weeks, and on the flip side the remote district sends 5 people over here for 4 weeks as well. During the trip, the team participants offer several presentations talking about life and culture here in the U.S., or more specifically in the area in which we live. Obviously, the team also spends time touring the other country and learning about their culture. Almost everything is paid for by the local and remote Rotary districts–airfare, lodging and food are all provided. After the team returns, they are expected to share their experiences with local Rotary clubs and other organizations.
Last year the exchange was with a Rotary district in Australia, and next year I hear they are going to Spain. This year, the exchange is with a Rotary district in Bangkok, Thailand. After submitting my application and interviewing with members of the Rotary Foundation this past Tuesday evening, yesterday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised to get a call inviting me to become a member of the team this year.
My first reaction to hearing the news can be summed up in a single word: Whoa… While I had spent a good amount of time talking to Katrina and deciding whether or not to apply for the GSE, it wasn’t until I was invited to join the team that it became real. I mean, it’s 4 weeks of being away from family and friends in a country where very few people speak English and the culture is vastly different. On top of that, this is definitely not a vacation, in that we have full schedules almost every day of the trip. Gaucho Software would have to be put on hold for a month and the meteorology courses I’m taking a Central Michigan University would have to be put on hold for a semester.
On the other hand, I would get to go to Thailand! I’ve never been to Asia or even outside of North America before, so this would be quite an experience. Over there, team members are matched with someone in the other country who has the same profession, so I would get to see first-hand how software engineering and/or meteorology differs in that part of the world. 95% of the Thai people are Buddhist, so I would get to learn more about that religion and see tour Buddhist temples. Not to mention the architecture of other buildings, the excellent food, and the list goes on and on.
This morning, I formally accepted the invitation and now the preparation begins. Wish me luck…