RSS Five Lessons from a Rotary Exchange Student

My wife and I had the pleasure of hosting a young woman from Taiwan as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program this past school year. “Cindy” just finished her sophomore year of high school in the United States and will be traveling back home to Taiwan in two weeks – so while she may be one year older, something tells me she is many years wiser.

It would be an understatement to say Cindy had an impact on me. I remember greeting her at the airport with a group of fellow Rotarians one evening last year. Cindy was obviously tired from her long journey, and it was apparent she was anxious about this cultural exchange and the family with whom she would be living. She was totally vulnerable to her new surroundings and the Rotary “strangers” she was expected to trust.

While we were one of Cindy’s three host families, we had the privilege of being the very first family. As such, I got to see first-hand the transformation she made in one year. It is a kind of transformation we can all make if we simply allow ourselves to be exposed to new things and to trust that these new things will make us better.

I have seen her grow so much in this past year; however, it is not her growth that I want to discuss. On the contrary, it is how I have grown that I am compelled to summarize here.

  1. Shared vulnerability brings people together. We had many discussions about life and family that will remain with me forever.
  2. Learning isn’t just a “first-hand” experience. You can learn just as much, or more, from others.
  3. Trust doesn’t necessarily have to be earned, it can be expected.
  4. Family is composed of individuals who care enough to make you better. Cindy will forever be a part of my family, and I believe we will forever be a part of hers.
  5. Handwritten notes are worth more than gold! I’d like to share part of a note Cindy gave me when I dropped her off at the home of her second host family: “I’ll remember that I had a dad like a young teenager who liked to rock out a lot. I had a dad like a brother who teased me a lot. I’ll remember that I had a dad that was like a good friend that you can tell every secret to. Mitch, you are the father I’ll dream of. Some things, some people, you will never forget.”

If our exchange student Cindy ever reads this, I want her to know she made me a better dad and a better person. May she travel home safely and take with her the love and appreciation of an American father who looks forward to the day he will see her again.

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One Response to “Five Lessons from a Rotary Exchange Student”

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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