Sylvia Barton is our District’s first participant in the New Generations Exchange Program and this is the story of the journey she has embarked on with Rotary. Sylvie as she is known by those close to her, is a 3rd year student at SFU majoring in criminology with a minor in First Nations Studies. It has been edited in length but is her story.
When I was 17, my sister and I went to visit with the Chidiac family in France.  Virginie Chidiac was a 17 year old exchange student staying with my grandparents.  While we were there, Virginie asked me why I was not an exchange student already; I considered this a very good question, and applied as soon as I got back.
Jointly sponsored by the New Westminster Rotary Club and the Royal City Rotary Club,  I went to Belgium where I was hosted by the Rotary Club of Herstal, in District 1630. While in Belgium I lived in Embourg which was about 15 minutes from the centre of Liege. Before leaving on my exchange I also attended RYLA South.
As the saying goes, it is not a year in your life, it is a life in a year.  I met so many amazing people in my adventure as a youth exchange student.  The Rotarians who arrange youth exchange programs put so much time, caring and energy into helping students succeed. They are truly amazing individuals. There is also no person quite like an exchange student, they are so open, kind and intelligent. I am still friends with many of my exchange buddies and have visited with them since returning to Canada.
After my exchange in 2011-2012, I wanted to get involved with Rotary. I joined the New Westminster Rotaract and our District's Rotex and have remained heavily involved with both programs since including being president of the New Westminster Rotaract in 2013 and had the opportunity to attend PETS in Seatle. With Rotaract,I was involved in several projects; we have raised money for kidsport, coats for kids, one girl a year, and other various organizations. 
I am honoured that I am the first New Generations Service Exchange participant from our District.  I am staying in Dubbo, Australia and am being hosted by the Rotary Club of Dubbo South.  It is currently a beautiful summer and I have already seen kangaroos.  I am so excited to continue to see what Australia has in store and so grateful I have this opportunity.

I arrived on January 25th after spending approximately 25 hours on planes over three flights. As January 26th is Australia Day, I went to an Australia Day Party! It was mostly staff members of the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, the huge local zoo. I was invited by Karen, who works at the zoo in the meerkat and reptile exhibits. She also went on a New Generation’s Service Exchange in America. 

My host parents are named Prue and David Duffy. They have two boys. The younger is in Ireland doing a gap year before Uni and the older is at Uni in Wogga Wogga (means lots of crows) training to be a vet. They're wonderful people, both work in town. I've been to a couple Rotary meetings so far, the first one was a Czech Night hosted by the club's exchange student. Last week's was a tour of a members food warehouse (they distribute food to grocery stores in bulk) and a meal there. The first normal meeting of the Rotary club of Dubbo South will be tonight.

As Dubbo is a smaller town, there is quite a horse culture here. Many people, including my host family, own horses and at the very least others are familiar with them. We went to horse races Saturday and I won 65$ at one of the races. The next day we reinforced my host family’s chicken coop with the help of the neighbour’s tractor (which was the first time I had ever seen a tractor up close) and I also got a great sunburn despite wearing sunscreen. I am now definitely darker than when I arrived. 
I started work January 30th. I am learning the ropes at the Dubbo Neighbourhood Centre (which admittedly involves a lot of admin work) and have been helping with the Aboriginal Family Health and Migrant Support services mostly so far. The centre gets a lot of good work done; their services include community transport, social groups for the elderly, before/after school/vacation childcare, women's safety, domestic violence counsellors, Aboriginal family health, child youth and family services and a ton of other ones I don't know that much about.

Two weekends ago we went to a national park called the Coolah Tops. It is the top of a tiny mountain range. We saw lots of wildlife and it was much colder there than at Dubbo where last weekend the heat record was broken at 44 degrees. They have also had a large number of forest fires in the area and the town at the base of the Coolah Tops is just north of a huge grass fire. It's cooler now but there have been a huge number of fires in New South Wales.