Willetton: Hawaiian exchange student ready to grab new opportunities in Perth


Willetton Rotary international director Paul Daly, exchange student Cole Chihara with host family, Paul and Gill Todd.
Willetton Rotary international director Paul Daly, exchange student Cole Chihara with host family, Paul and Gill Todd.

EVEN with Perth being considered one of the quieter Australian cities, for Cole Chihara it is a world away from home.

The 17-year-old is currently on exchange from Kauai, the northern-most Hawaiian Island.

‘The Garden Isle’ has a population of just 65,000 people.

“It’s very different here than in Hawaii,” Cole said.

“It’s relaxed here, but it’s still pretty fast and furious.

“Even though people say it’s the most quiet city in the world, it’s still pretty hectic.”

Having lived his whole life on Kauai, Cole hopes to use his stay in WA – where he will study at Willetton Senior High School – to become more independent and broaden his horizons.

He said the key was to accept every opportunity.

“I feel like I’ve changed so much already,” he said of his few months in Australia, which was organised through Rotary Club of Willetton.

“Even when I talk to my friends they say I’ve changed.

“When you get thrown into this, you have to change or you’ll just sink.”

Willetton Rotary international director Paul Daly said his own experience on exchange in the early ‘90s shaped his career as a police officer.

“(The program) can only really happen with host families,” he said.

“It’s something that keeps the whole program alive.

“The club is always looking for families wanting to be part of the program.”

Mr Daly said the relationship between host and exchange did not end when the trip was over.

“It’s not just three months; you don’t know where life is going to take you,” he said.

“We’re forever hearing stories for those families that have got involved – they’re getting invited to weddings, they’re travelling, dropping in to say hello.

“There’s all the knock-on benefits down the track.”

Cole is Canning Vale couple Paul and Gill Todd’s third exchange student.

Mr Todd encouraged others to consider hosting a student.

“I’d encourage people to try it and see how they go,” he said.

“Watching these young kids get on a plane by themselves, when they’ve not been out of the country, I have a deep respect for them,” he said.

“Your horizons are broadened which is fantastic.”

For information, visit rotarywilletton.org.au.

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