On January 15, our fellow RCFC member, Randy Kurtz, shared his experiences from some 50 years of interactions with Rotary Exchange Students.  To start, Randy compared the experience of himself and his family with that of his father-in-law who spent 83 of his 85 years in the bedroom community of Bernardsville, NJ.  In contrast, Randy and all three of his children have spent significant periods living in various countries around the world, some on exchange programs, others for various other reasons.
Randy grew up in the small town of Eaton, CO, where his Dad was a Rotarian and Randy concentrated on sports, community, and church. He ultimately decided that he wanted to become a Rotary Exchange Student.  He went to an area in central Austria where, after a glitch in the welcoming process, he stayed, over the year with three different families.  He still maintains contact with all three families and has visited back and forth with all three.  His embarrassing learning experiences during that year included his first sampling, at age 17, of beer (eine grosse) and his first experience with a co-ed (and naked) sauna (modesty meant that he stayed in the sauna, presumably with the appropriately deployed towel, for longer than a first experience might suggest). 
 In his years in Colorado, one of his children has spent a year in Norway (Volksshulle majoring in skiing), another in grad school at Tulane (in New Orleans but where 90 of the students in her class of 110 were from China), and the third child, a semester abroad in South Africa and is in the Army at Wiesbaden in Germany.  It was interesting that the third child started grade school on the west coast and, after coming to Colorado, wondered "where they hid all the Asian kids'. 
Randy and his wife have hosted three different exchange students.  Daniel, from Ecuador, was so impressed by snow that he enthusiastically shoveled it.  In contrast, Carolina, from Brazil, never having experienced temps below about 500 F, was frustrated by the cold and wasn’t enthusiastic about learning to ski (but who ultimately thanked him for it when she could demonstrate her skills to other Brazilian students).  Finally, Alex, from Austria, continued Randy’s connection with one of his host families in Austria. 
Randy commented that the number of exchange students coming to the U.S. is down significantly,  apparently driven by fear of the gun culture and the current state of political attitude toward immigrants.  He understands that there are no exchange students currently at Cherry Creek High in Denver.  Randy called for the Club to renew its support for the Rotary Exchange program and support Mara Johnson’s efforts to bring students to Fort Collins.
Some of the exchanges in which Randy participated were Rotary Exchange arrangements, others were personal exchanges.  He commented that the Rotary exchanges, although trying to recognize the desires and abilities of the students and their parents, offer less control to both students and parents than direct exchanges.  He also commented that, although the Rotary Exchange program is aimed at high-school students below the age of 18, there is clearly some flexibility since he, himself, did the exchange after he graduated from high school.