Building Bridges with Rotary Youth Exchange: Social in the City

Written by Emily Garcia

“It was great to make a personal connection with the students; talking about their country and culture in a short span of time. In the end, it’s all about loving & admiring each other as human beings.” 

-Rotaractor Rahul Dubey

Rotaract members show Rotary Youth Exchange students around Milwaukee

Rotary Youth Exchange is Rotary’s global study abroad program for young people ages 15-19. Students spend up to a year with Rotarian host families in a foreign country and serve as global ambassadors for their home countries. There are nearly a dozen Rotary Youth Exchange students spread throughout our Rotary district.

RYE students from nine different countries are currently living in Elkhorn, Oshkosh, Slinger, Kenosha, Ripon, Fond du Lac, Neenah, Mequon, and Sheboygan.

After months of planning and working out logistics, the Rotaract Club of Milwaukee hosted “Social in the City” for the Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) students on Saturday, February 7th.

RYE students met up with Milwaukee Rotaract members at the Menomonee Valley branch of the Urban Ecology Center for an active morning of snowshoeing and interacting with resident reptiles. 

Snowshoeing at the Urban Ecology Center

Making reptilian friends at the Urban Ecology Center!

After working up a big appetite on the snow trail, the students convinced the “adult planners” that lunch at Culver’s was preferred to the original plan of a healthier lunch at Whole Foods — it was also taken as a great indicator that the students were acclimating well to Wisconsin food favorites like cheese curds and custard. ☺ So, the group headed to the food court at The Shops of Grand Avenue where they enjoyed watching young performers dance while they ate their lunch.  

After lunch, it was time for the “Skywaukee Tour,” a tour of Milwaukee via the skywalk system, provided by a very knowledgeable tour guide from Historic Milwaukee, Inc. Everyone enjoyed great views of the city while learning a lot about the early history of Milwaukee. After the tour wrapped up, the students enjoyed some free time to shop and socialize. Several students purchased Wisconsin-themed gifts.  

 Going on the Skywaukee tour of downtown Milwaukee via skywalks

Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye and send the students back to their respective host families. Hugs all around, we promised to connect via Facebook and share pictures of our adventures together. 

Reflecting on his experience interacting with the RYE students, Rahul Dubey (Rotaract member) said, “It was great to make a personal connection with the students; talking about their country and culture in a short span of time. In the end, it’s all about loving and admiring each other as human beings.” 

We were able to build our relationship with Rotary Youth Exchange at the RYE Conference in April. Rotaractor Jessica Boling spoke to the RYE students about her recent service trip to Guatemala with the students. She said that it was interesting to hear some misconceptions that students had about Americans before arriving. Some students thought that Americans ate hamburgers every day, three times a day.

RYE Conference in Green Lake, WI- April 2015

A huge thank you to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee for their generous sponsorship of the snowshoeing and skywalk tour activities, Michelle Harkan and Kelly Mundell for helping communicate and coordinate the event with the RYE students, and  the Rotaract members for help transporting the students to & from the activities– we could not have pulled this off without all of your help!