About 15 members of the Wenatchee Confluence Rotary club gathered Tuesday, Aug. 21 at Pangborn Memorial Airport to welcome the club’s first international exchange student, Alina Heikkurinen.
Heikkurinen, 17, is from Riihimäki, a small town located in the south of Finland, about 42 miles north of Helsinki. After a long trip, she said she was pleasantly surprised such a reception.
It was her big sister that gave her the inspiration to apply for the program.
“My big sister was on rotary exchange in Canada 2010-2011 and when she left I said: ‘When I’m big enough, I’ll be an exchange student too,’ she said. “And here I am now! I admire the way how she speaks English as fluent as Finnish. I want to be as open-minded as I can and try new things. I’m sure this year will be awesome!”
Patrick Bodell, youth exchange officer for Wenatchee Confluence Rotary, organized the welcoming committee and he and his wife Mabel will open their home to Heikkurinen, serving as her first host family.
Bodell said part of the reason he feels so strongly about Rotary exchange is because he has benefitted from the program too.
“There's no better way to promote cultural awareness, build international goodwill and ultimately, world peace than through youth exchange,” he said. “Having been an exchange student myself, I feel fortunate now to be on the other side of the equation and in a position to reciprocate as a host family and Youth Exchange Officer for my club.”
Heikkurinen is one of three international students in the area being hosted by Rotary clubs. Each student will attend high school and live with a total of three host families during the course of their exchanges.
To learn more about Rotary Youth Exchange in general, visit rotary.org, and to learn about what other projects Wenatchee Confluence Rotary leads, visit wenatcheeconfluencerotary.com.
Photos and copy by Dominick Bonny, vice president, Wenatchee Confluence Rotary.