Posted by John Farrow
This morning we were lucky to have not one, but TWO amazing youth speaking to our club.
Our inbound Exchange Student Maya Bergerson was introduced by President Rick for her final presentation to the club.
Maya has been with us since August of 2018.  She was doing her final presentation on the eve of exams (with a bad cold), and when she was preparing to speak last week, she was taking time from the 8 assignments she had to do (thanks for fitting us in!)  Maya showed us her first picture, taken in the Kingston airport, after a loooooong day of flying from her home in Norway to Germany, Toronto, stuck in Toronto, then finally in Kingston. Maya thought about what she’d say, and admitted she’s not good at taking pictures, so she has many pictures of her, not so many of her exchange!  But she had lots of friends that did take pictures, lucky for us.  Instead of the usual travelogue of photos, Maya wanted to talk about how the exchange has helped her and changed her as a person.  Rather than trying to be “that exchange student” who dives in and does everything, Maya wanted her exchange to be more about experiencing what life is like for a normal teenager in Canada – going to school, eating greasy cafeteria pizza, and hanging out downtown with friends.  She tried skating in the market square – much different than finding a frigid frozen lake in Norway.  Maya’s exchange was about the small things – reading more for pleasure, writing bad poetry (not true, I’ve read some of it, it’s very good!), going to Starbucks, and doing the Polar Plunge.  Maya enjoyed the polar plunge because she said if you want to do that in Norway you just go swimming in July! Going to the prom was a highlight (for her date too I’m sure), as was the visit from Maya's Mom and mom’s boyfriend.  Chilling at school with her friends was also something that always made Maya smile.
Maya was happy to celebrate the Norway National Day in Canada, complete with the required fancy cake.  Her last weekend with her fellow exchange students was sad, lots of tears, but Maya realized that she has made friendships that will last forever.  She closed by thanking us for being great hosts and being her second family.
Answering questions, Maya admitted her favourite Canadian food is poutine, and hopes to do some camping before she leaves on July 10th.  She is open for suggestions of things to do before she leaves.
Maya was presented with a lovely bracelet and notebook to write poetry in by Heather Kembel.
Greg Mumford introduced our second speaker, Farida Elsharkawy– she was sponsored for RYLA last year, and Adventures in Citizenship in May in Ottawa, noting she has made an important commitment when the new high school opens (more on that later).
Farida is a grade 11 student at KCVI who thanked us for sponsoring her for programs that she says will make her a better person.  Adventures in Citizenship is a week-long program in Ottawa, and luckily Farida’s host dad for the week has served in Egypt in the military (Farida moved to Canada from Egypt 5 years ago).  And, her host mom was a physiotherapist, which is what Farida wants to do as a profession.
Archives Canada was the base for the program, but Farida got to visit many other places – the War Museum, which she wants to go back to, and the relocated House of Commons, which gave her chills when she thought about the big decisions taken there for our country.  Even the technology of the House amazed her.  One of her big takeaways was the motivation she received from the amazing speakers.  A self-described procrastinator, Farida vowed to change that.  It was a wake-up call for her about how much other students are doing, and she remarked on the friends she made and how she will keep up those relationships.
RYLA was another great program that involves coming up with a project the you will implement at you school.  Farida was fascinated by the proposals to set up an Interact club, and really wants to set up a club at the new high school, and has a teacher interested to help.
Answering questions, Farida wanted to become more involved outside of school, so the Rotary connection in the programs piqued her interest.  One of the speakers she was very interested in was an immigrant who ran into trouble with the law and turned his life around.
One of the most interesting questions came from Martin Thomas, who wanted to know if Farida has reflected on what her life would be like if she had stayed in Egypt.  She responded by saying the she loves Egypt but would not be the person she is today if she was there, because she wouldn’t fit in with the conservative society.  The idea of community volunteerism is lacking, as are activities outside of school.  But maybe she will return to make some of these activities happen.  Farida also spoke of her school activities and her passion for rugby – playing, refereeing, and teaching younger kids the game.
President Rick presented Farida with the usual loaf of bread.
Yet another meeting where youth stole the show.
Inbound, Inbound, Rebound, Mom of Rebound, and Bestie of all Exchange Students!