The Rotary Club of Buckeye, one of Verrado’s Giving Tree partner organizations, had the privilege of co-sponsoring Sena Kim, a Korean youth exchange student from Japan. Over the last year, she was placed in Verrado with her primary host family, Paul and Becky Kelley, where she experienced Verrado’s incredible giving spirit. Below she reflects on life in Verrado.
How did you come about being an exchange student in the community of Verrado?
My older friend in Japan told me about the Rotary Exchange Program. I indicated that spending my exchange year in America was my first choice. Rotary in Japan then worked with the local Rotary chapters in Arizona to arrange for my exchange year assignment in Verrado with Buckeye and Goodyear White Tanks Rotary.
What stands out most to you about the community of Verrado?
I have participated in a number of events here in Verrado since arriving in July 2015, such as Paws on Parade, Joy of Giving, Phoenix Rescue Mission, and Feed My Starving Children. I am most impressed by the strong sense of community and friendship among neighbors.
What is the most impactful experience you have had in Arizona?
I have been able to learn from and interact with a wide variety of people of all ages during my exchange year, especially my fellow exchange students from around the world. Through these many personal interactions, I have learned the importance and value of helping others in need.
Tell us a little about your host family. Are they similar or very different from your own family?
The families are very different. First of all, I have a younger brother in my own family, but I do not have any other children in my host family. My host family must take me everywhere by their car. In Japan, I have nearby access to public transportation so I can go to school or shopping and many other places by myself. While I am staying here in America, my family in Japan is also hosting a Rotary Exchange student from Arizona.
What was your most memorable experience or story during this journey?
My greatest memories involve the close friendships that I have made and the experiences that I have shared with fellow exchange students at Rotary service events, camping trips, RYLA conferences, and trips to Havasu Falls, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, San Diego, Mexico and Disneyland. Before I return home in late July, I will be joining many Rotary exchange students for a one month train trip to experience many of the major sights around the USA.
Can you tell us a little about Verrado High School?
I find that the workload in high school is a bit easier here in the US compared to Japan, but nearly everything that I did from attending football games to the homecoming dance to prom was fun! Along with other non-Rotary exchange students, I also was pleased to receive a Foreign Exchange Honor medal from Verrado High School at the end of the school year.
What were your most favorite and least favorite things to eat in America?
Most favorite is Mexican food. Least favorite is Root Beer.
What advice would you give another exchange student coming to America?
American people are mostly nice and friendly, so don’t worry too much about being accepted. Also, American people really like pizza.
What did you learn from The Giving Tree in Verrado?
Making the effort to help other people really makes you feel better.
How do you plan to share The Giving Tree’s mission with other exchange students in your group?
I was given Giving Tree t-shirts to share with all of the other Rotary exchange students from our district. We will all now take the shirts back to wear in our home countries. We all took a group picture wearing our t-shirts to share with the Giving Tree committee, as well as posting the picture on various social network sites.