World in her hands

World in her hands

KAITLYN O'Connor has been selected for next year's Rotary Youth Exchange Program and is madly organising herself, despite not yet knowing which country she will be sent to.

"It's really exciting," Kaitlyn said. "My parents have already said my sister will be getting my room while I'm away," she joked.

The Margaret River Senior High School student was selected to represent her state through the Margaret River Rotary Club after interviews in Perth determined she was open minded and strong enough to live somewhere foreign for 12 months.

She could be going anywhere in the world but suspects it will likely be somewhere in Asia or South America.

However, Kaitlyn lists her top preferences as Italy, because she has family there, Brazil and Russia.

She said she would go for 12 months, go to school and stay with four different families for three months each. Though technically repeating year 12, the marks won't matter so much as integrating with the culture. "Leaning the language is the hardest thing," she said.

"[Rotary advisors] said by the six-month mark, most people can grasp it. But you'll know when you start dreaming in the language."

Kaitlyn said the benefits of the experience went beyond just her - the exchange was about creating community bonds with another country and also reporting back to her peers on what the foreign culture was like.

"When I come back, I'll talk at the Rotary and at school and tell everyone what I've learnt," she said.

Earlier this year, Margaret River hosted Joe Richardson, an 'inbound' exchange student, visiting from Idaho, US.

This year's 'outbound' exchange student was local Ingrid Tischner, who is currently in Thailand and having a great time.

The cost of the exchange is extensive, with about $10,000 needed for Kaitlyn to make the trip and ensure some financial security while overseas.

Already she has held a few fundraisers in Margaret River, including a wood raffle and a sausage sizzle, and has plans for bigger events.

Local businesses have been kindly donating raffle prizes and Kaitlyn thanked them for the cool things she was able to raffle off so far.

"My next thing will be a cake stall, sausage sizzle and raffle all in one," she said.

People are invited to the fundraiser from 8am outside Riverfresh IGA on Saturday, August 3.

Kaitlyn will leave in January and now it's just a matter of knowing where she is going so she can think about phrases and packing her suitcase. "For Brazil you'd pack completely different to Russia!" she said.

People or businesses wanting to help Kaitlyn in any way can contact her via kaitlynoconnor@hotmail.com or through Margaret River Rotary.