Exchange student tells of experience in Austria
The Rotary Club of Umina Beach exchange student Beau Seal has spoken to the club about his experience abroad at the club's 44th anniversary celebration earlier this month.
Beau spent a year in Austria as part of his exchange returning in time for the start of the new school year at Brisbane Water Secondary College Woy Woy Campus.
"One year in Austria: It's such a weird concept to grasp.
"I look back at the year and think about my experiences and how crazy that would be for most people to do.
"Leave my friends, family, school, my home; and move to a foreign country, not speaking a word of the national language, attending school and pretty much starting the majority of my life from day one.
"But no matter how insane it was to leave everything behind and start again, there was not one second that I regretted it," Beau said.
"I made the most of every day, every experience and did my exchange the way I was supposed to do it.
"I learnt German.
"I met some of the best friends I could possibly meet.
"I rode a bike 500km, from Austria to Italy through the mountains.
"I snowboarded like every day was my last.
"I made mistakes and learnt from them.
"I lived with different families with different cultures and integrated those rules and notions into my everyday life.
"I got the chance to travel Europe, and to see things I'd never thought I'd see at 15-years-old.
"This experience stacked the blocks to start building towards my adult life.
"It pushed me towards the paths I want to take once I restart in Australia.
"It pushed me out of comfort zones, threw me in the deep end and told me to start swimming or I would drown real fast," he said.
Beau said leaving Austria was harder then it was to leave Australia, after his year of self-discovery and personal growth.
"To leave was one of the saddest things I've done to date.
"Austria has become another home to me, and I will go back one day," Beau said.
Beau's mother Ms Paula Hayes said more parents should consider a Rotary Youth Exchange.
"The truth is it benefits them for as long as they live," Ms Hayes said.
"The changes and experiences that Beau has made and had over one year are changes and experiences that most of us would make over a lifetime and even then, some of us will not get to experience these opportunities.
"Beau has: learnt to speak German, travelled across nine European countries, visited relatives never before met, experienced seven different cultures, expanded his world views and just generally become a much more mature and grounded young man.
"Since returning to Australia four weeks ago, Beau has obtained his driver's licence, applied for and been accepted for two jobs, started Year 11 and is working hard towards his goal of studying medicine.
"I've found some challenges with parenting, mainly because he left a 15-year-old boy and has come home with the maturity of a 20-year-old man.
"Beau is still Beau but has views and beliefs that a significantly different to when he left.
"He knows exactly who he is, something that is extraordinary for a 16-year-old boy," Ms Hayes said.
Newsletter, 6 Feb 2020
Simon Darwin, Rotary Club of Umina Beach