Student exchange builds ties to Belgium

Warwick Senior High School student Julia Pham (17) and Elise Grevesse (17) who is an exchange student visiting from Belgium. Picture: David Baylis d494976
Warwick Senior High School student Julia Pham (17) and Elise Grevesse (17) who is an exchange student visiting from Belgium. Picture: David Baylis d494976

EVEN though they have only just met, Elise Grevesse from Belgium and Julia Pham from Marangaroo have much in common.

The 17-year-olds are involved in Rotary’s Youth Exchange program where high school students travel to the other side of the world to experience another way of life.

While on exchange, students attend school and live with local families to get a true sense of how other cultures and countries operate.

Elise, who arrived in Perth last month, comes from the city of Vise in Belgium where she has just finished her final year of high school.

After her 12-month exchange, where she will attended Warwick Senior High School, she will return home to start university.

Julia, who is also a Year 12 Warwick student, recently found out she has also been selected for an exchange and will head to Belgium in January.

“I applied to do the exchange because my school has hosted students previously and I got to see what they got out of the experience,” Julia said.

“I have never been to Europe before so I am excited to meet lots of different people and experience a whole new way of life.

“Learning a new language will also be something that I will need to deal with but this is one of the opportunities that come with exchange.”

Elise said everyone she had met since arriving had been “very nice”.

“Belgium is one of the smallest and densely populated countries in Europe,” she said.

“Looking out the window as I flew into Perth you really got a sense of the space. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of the country.”

She said her biggest wishes while in Australia were to visit Rottnest and get a quokka selfie, learn to surf and see kangaroos and koalas.

Both girls are sponsored by the Rotary Club of Karrinyup in a partnership with Warwick Senior High School.

“Rotary Youth Exchange is a win-win for participants like Elise and Julia,” Rotary Club of Karrinyup president Richard Prunster said.

“They get to experience another part of the world for a year living like a local, going to school, seeing the sites, immersing themselves into another culture and the best that country can offer.

“Students often come back from their experience in amazement of how much they have grown on a personal level.”

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