The third-century theologian Saint Augustine is credited with musing, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” Two Telluride High School sophomores, Philip Brooks and Liam Intemann, are poised to peruse many more chapters, when they each venture abroad for the upcoming school year as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange. Brooks is headed for Austria, and Intemann will be in Argentina.
Patricia Kiernan serves as the Telluride Rotary Club’s youth exchange officer.
“We are just starting the program again after a two-year COVID break and are thrilled to open up this opportunity again,” she said. “The program is an incredible opportunity for a young adult to grow and develop while part of an international organization which embraces peace through international goodwill and understanding. The students attend a local high school and participate in the community’s events to learn about social, cultural and historical traditions.”
The local students, Kiernan explained, are two of 15 students in the Rotary district the Telluride club is part of, representing the central and southern portion of Colorado. Though travel is not yet confirmed, Brooks and Intemann will depart in August and return in June 2023.
A school year abroad is typically spent with three different families, with the visiting students attending nearby schools and experiencing not only local culture but becoming part of each family’s life.
For Liam’s parents Conor and Jamie, the notion of travel abroad has long been part of family conversations.
“Once Liam was of talking age, we have discussed incredible opportunities to travel abroad, maybe even living abroad as a family, and gaining experiences by immersing in other cultures and languages,” Jamie said.
So, it came as little surprise that their son — and only child — latched onto the opportunity to participate in the exchange program.
“The best part is Liam isn’t doing this for us, he is actually the one embracing, and motivated for, this opportunity, and we are all excited for him,” Jamie said, “Of course we will miss him very much.”
For his part, Liam will miss his parents and friends, too, but the experience, he said, will be worth the challenge of trading the familiar with the new.
“The adventure that I am about to embark on is going to be one of the most terrifying, amazing and exciting that I have been on,” he said. “It’s new territory for me, leaving family and friends for an entire year. The challenge of adapting to a new family and learning the ropes will be unimaginable. But I chose to go abroad with Rotary to open my eyes and see all the opportunities that Argentina has to offer.”
Philip Brooks views his decision to participate in the program as a “big commitment” and one that has left him with “mixed emotions.” Understandably so, as he will be fully immersing himself in Austrian culture, which includes speaking only German.
“It will be intimidating and daunting to move from the life you’re comfortable with to a brand new culture and language, a language which for me, is practically brand new,” Brooks said. “By the time I leave for Austria this August, I will have only studied German for about five or six months, and will be expected to speak solely German with little to no help during the transition.”
Brooks confessed to some anxiety — will he get along with his host family? — but said his excitement far outweighs any concerns. Previous travel experiences and a family stay in Morocco as part of his participation in the Telluride Academy program, Mudd Butts International, served to whet his appetite for more.
“This is the most excited I have been in my life,” he said.
Philip’s big brother Julien, a former exchange participant, was also influential in his decision to dive into the experience.
“Another motive for wanting to go on exchange was my older brother, Julien, who went on exchange to Vigo, Spain, his sophomore year. In addition to hearing about his incredible experiences, it was shocking to see him leave knowing hardly any Spanish and come back completely fluent,” Philip said. “It was also Julien who convinced me to go sophomore year because as he explained, you don’t want to go when you’re too young, but you also want to be able to enjoy your upper-classman years with your friends back home.”
For local Rotarians, part of sending local students abroad is the understanding that Telluride will host a foreign student in exchange. That student hasn’t been named yet, but Kiernan said that Rotary is looking for a third host family.
“He or she will stay with three host families to get a true feeling of life in America,” she said. “We presently have two families vetted and are looking for a third to round out his or her experience,”
One of those host families is the Intemanns. They are looking forward to sharing their life in the mountains.
“Instead of being empty nesters while Liam is away during his sophomore school year, we are hosting a student in our home this coming school year,” Jamie said. “This student will hopefully enjoy white water rafting, skiing and mountain biking, but if not, that’s OK. We want to give back to a program as great as Rotary any way we can.”
Brooks, in addition to his excitement, is anticipating nothing less than a transformation of self.
“I am certain that this will be a life-changing experience, to say the least,” he said.
Liam agrees and he’s looking forward to hitting the road.
“This exchange is truly extraordinary, and I can’t wait to see it all come together.”
According to the Rotary website, host families volunteer to host a high school student for approximately three and one-half months, providing room and board. Rotary pays for the inbound student's school and incidental expenses, so the financial burden on the host family is minimal. While it is optimal to have host families with a student at Telluride Middle/High School, it’s not necessary; host families can have younger children, be empty nesters or be single parents. Telluride Rotary is looking for a family for the inbound student from March through mid-June.
Contact Kiernan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-517-5336, soon. For general questions, email email@example.com. Find out more about Rotary Youth Exchange and being a host family at mountainandplainsrye.com.
Sorry, there are no recent results for popular commented articles.