Posted on May 30, 2019
Our youth program champion, District Officer Joe Ramirez, closed Rotary Youth Services Month by welcoming three current and former students participating in the Exchange Student Program and their families. Beforehand, he gave us some insight on the program, which enables students to live, study and learn in other countries: It began in 1929, and now involves about 9,000 students ages 15 to 18 ½ annually from 80 countries – mostly North American and Eurasian nations. Students can either participate in long-term exchange (the entire school year), or short-term (summer program). Joe also cited the more than a dozen Rotary Club of Carlsbad members who have served as host parents, and gave us a very impressive fact: Of the 32 student exchanges that have taken place in District 5340 in the past four years, 10 have involved Rotary Club of Carlsbad – easily the most of any club. Word is out about Carlsbad!
Joe then introduced Carlsbad High sophomore Rylee Wilson, who is on his way to Sao Paulo, Brazil for a year. Interestingly, Rylee’s parents, Steve and Lorraine, will be hosting our next exchange student to arrive, Kristyne (Kristy) Fialova, a biathlete from the Czech Republic who will be attending Carlsbad High. We will meet her later this summer. Joe then called up his son, Alex, an exchange student in Ecuador in 2009-10. By both accounts — Joe’s and Alex’s — Alex’s life changed and grew purposeful from his year in South America, leading to the deeply serviceful long-term career he now enjoys. His brief talk, directed at Arthur and Rylee but heard by all of us, was really inspiring.
Finally, we got to hear from Arthur Vieillevoye, a very willing and active part of our Rotary family since he arrived from Belgium last August. Arthur stood up with a jacket loaded with pins, patches, clipped-on license plates and all sorts of memorabilia. He took us through a wonderful month-to-month slide show on how he came upon all this Americana… with 13,000 miles of road tripping to the Four Corners, Navajo Nation, New Orleans, Vancouver, the Sequoias, Sierras … you name it. He showed a stunning picture of Mammoth, taken last weekend, with him at a ski run directional pole. He put up a picture of the same pole, taken on barren ground during 2018 Memorial Day weekend. He was 12 feet above the 2018 photo, sitting on snow. It was that kind of a winter.  He shared some stories, how his host mother forgot about him the first day of school, sleeping in the cold without a sleeping bag in Yosemite, learning about U.S. coin valuations from a second grader, taking “10 buck naps” in the reclining seats of Regal Theatre, and a few pet phrases he picked up.
“What I will miss most is my host family, the people at the Rotary Club and my surf class,” Arthur said. “I’ll be taking home my friendships from school and Rotary.” We’d also like to send him some of our warm south swells home to fulfill his surf cravings, as he’ll have to deal with the frigid North Sea now…
Arthur received a warm ovation from the club. It is always bittersweet to see an exchange student depart, especially one who ingratiated himself to us like Arthur did. What a self-assured, funny, intelligent and confident young man. Pretty easy to see him creating great success in his life.