One local student at Valley Oaks Charter School is preparing to embark on an exciting adventure to a foreign country in the Rotary Club of Tehachapi's Youth Exchange Program.
Aiden Wood, 16, said he first heard about the program in April when he was selected to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards.
"My initial thought on the matter was that it sounded both extremely scary and extremely exciting at the same time, but was ultimately not for me," Wood said.
However, over time, Wood said, he could not stop thinking about participating in a foreign exchange.
"I looked into Rotary's program more, and the idea became less scary and more exciting," he said.
Wood said he wants to be a foreign exchange student for many reasons.
"There are, of course, the obvious benefits of traveling the world, experiencing a new culture, and learning a new language, but it is more than that," Wood said. "Through the Rotary's fantastic exchange program, whether it be with host families, other exchange students, or people at school, I will get a plethora of opportunities to build lasting friendships. Perhaps what I am most looking forward to is self-improvement."
Wood said he was asked to list the top five locations where he would most like to travel. He said he chose Sweden, Denmark, Taiwan, Germany and Norway.
"I want to come out of this speaking a language (other than English). I think that is an amazing thing to have," Wood said.
Judy Trujillo, the Rotarian in charge of the Tehachapi exchange, said the Rotary is excited to sponsor Wood and to welcome a student from another country who will come to Tehachapi in exchange for a year.
"This is the first year the Rotary Club of Tehachapi will be participating in this exciting program," Trujillo said.
Wood will turn 17 on Aug. 1, and should be leaving the country to the destination selected for him shortly after that. He will stay with three families during his time away, for about three months with each family.
In exchange, the Rotary Club is looking for three volunteer families to house the incoming student for three to four months. According to Trujillo, the Rotary Club of Tehachapi would sponsor and provide a stipend for student expenses. The host family would be asked to house and feed and take good care of the student, and introduce them to all that your family enjoys.
"Because this is a program of Rotary International, costs are kept to a minimum and our Tehachapi Rotary Club would be the sponsor and overseer of the student — ready to help when needed," Trujillo said.
Aiden's parents, Brandon and Penny Wood, said they look forward to having their son participate in the program, as well as opening their home to a foreign student in exchange.
"I think it's amazing," said Penny. "My sister did an exchange when she was in high school, and it was probably the best experience of her life."
Aiden said he looks forward to the many amazing and fun experiences of being a foreign exchange student; however, he understands it will take some adjustment learning the culture of another country.
"They are not always easy, and I will be put in an environment that will force me to grow and mature as I am granted more independence," Aiden said. "When I get back from my exchange, I hope to be more prepared for the adult life I am soon to begin.”
Host families interested in opening their homes to a foreign exchange student are asked to contact Judy Trujillo via email at email@example.com.
Said Trujillo, "Aiden is excited for the opportunity and Rotary is looking forward to helping him achieve his dreams as well as welcoming a new student to Tehachapi."