Four Blue Mountains teenagers swapped heatwave conditions in Australia for sub-zero temperatures in Europe last Friday when they flew out of the country on a 12-month Rotary Youth Exchange program.
And with the mercury soaring above 44 degrees on Friday — and ski trips on the horizon in Europe — it was a journey the 2012 HSC students were excited to make.
“I wanted to go somewhere that was cold and snowing because I love winter a lot more than summer,” said 18-year-old Christy Dreves who will spend the next year in Sweden.
Freezing temperatures won’t be the only change for the former Winmalee High School student whose host family enjoy a decidedly ‘un-Blue Mountains’ pastime.
“My host family go hunting a lot so that could be interesting . . . That’s new,” she said.
With a passion for French art history, Maddison Bardwell was looking forward to spending the next 12 months in the coastal town of Wimereux, near Calais
“You get to go to school in another country, and you get to meet new people. I’m so excited to meet my host family — what an experience!” she said.
Winmalee’s Rachael Heil will put down roots in the German town of Wermelskirchen — home to the world’s biggest live Christmas tree — while former St Columba’s High School student Kieren Maurer will make Finland his new home.
All four teenagers were looking forward to learning a new language although this will come with varying degrees of difficulty — Kieren admitted while he can spell his host town’s name he hadn’t yet mastered its pronunciation (when the town in question is Kauhajoki, no-one is likely to hold that against him).
But cultural and language differences were among the main reasons the students were attracted to the European exchange program in the first place.
“I thought it would be a better place to go as opposed to America which is very similar to Australia,” said Kieren.
For more information about the program visit rotaryyouthexchange.org.au/