Guest Speaker: International Exchange Student, Elise Cacace, returned from Austria last week and gave a presentation,
New Zealand to Österreich. Without the slides, I cannot do justice to her account of a wonderful year in which she took advantage of every opportunity that came her way.
The year began with a fabulous trip to Los Angeles with 30 New Zealand exchange students, visiting all the well-known tourist attractions from Disneyland to Universal Studios and a tour of Santa Monica, Hollywood, and Sunset Blvd.
Arriving in Austria was a great culture shock: Elise was confident her German would get her through but she could not understand much.
So much snow! Elise was lucky to live in a beautiful tourist area on a lake, central to Vienna, Innsbruck, and Salzburg. Much of The Sound of Music was filmed in the area.
The language camp was excellent with her school a castle.  Schooling is very different with teachers moving from class to class and students remaining in one class. Sport is uncommon at school and PE is segregated. Many more subjects are taken than here. Elise felt the focus on speaking more than one language (German, English, Italian and French were taught) should definitely be adopted in New Zealand schools. As well as learning German Elise learnt to ski.
A ski camp, staying in a hotel in the Austrian mountains was a highlight. The Special Olympics were being held at the same time so they were able to meet the New Zealand competitors and attend the impressive Opening Ceremony.
The Eurotour was amazing, visiting many iconic places from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to the fleshpots of Monaco. At the end of the tour, it was very hard to say goodbye to all the great friends made. This was the hardest part of exchange along: minor problems were learning the language and a little homesickness.
Visiting a Concentration Camp was a chilling experience. She attended a lot of Rotary Conferences and meetings every two to three weeks. At one conference, being the only New Zealander, she made everyone stand up and do a haka. Many pavlovas were made.
The father in her last host family was the Rotary president, who sent her on a 10-day sailing course, for which he paid. She also traveled with this family to the Czech Republic. Elise learned so much from the experience but more than anything else she learned about herself.
The time went too quickly and she could have stayed another year.