Testimonial from an Outbound Exchange Student
It’s been nearly twelve years since I returned from my Rotary Youth Exchange to Germany, and the experience continues to impact my life. 


As a seventeen-year-old, I travelled to Erfurt, Germany to live with Thomas, Sybille and Christian Nitsch, the family I would stay with for the duration of my exchange. Having one host family is atypical for most exchange students, but it was standard for my host club. I spoke no German and had never been to Europe, obvious worries for any teenager from southwestern Ontario, but I was excited nonetheless and reassured that I had paid very close attention to the pre-departure lessons on mitigating culture shock and getting the most out of the exchange year. 


Like any exchange student will tell you, my year had its ups and its downs. I had an excellent host family, and we have stayed in touch all these years (my host parents and my host brother and his wife and new baby flew to Canada just last year for my wedding). I learned to speak German and I made a lot of great friends, both locals and other exchange students from around the world. I travelled around the country playing hockey with the Erfurt Young Dragons and I travelled around Europe, at times with my host family and at times with other exchange students. I saw the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Greece and Egypt. I was very lucky, and each of these experiences broadened my perspective on the world and challenged me in new ways. 


But, it’s hard to be away from home when the initial excitement and sense of adventure wears off and you enter the more monotonous cycle of day-to-day life. It’s hard to gain the insight and perspective necessary to realize that those day-to-day moments often offer the most profound lessons of a new language, a foreign culture and a young, immature mind. It’s hard to make friends when you don’t understand the language, and then when you do but you don’t understand the cultural references or slang used. It’s hard to explain to anyone but another exchange student just what it is that you’re experiencing throughout the year. It’s hard coming home, after a year away experiencing so many novel things, only to return to high school where life seems a little less sweet and a lot less free. And it’s hard not to be deeply affected, for the better, by all of this adversity. 


Twelve years on and I can say it’s that adversity that continues to shape who I am today. Like I said, I struggled a lot upon my return to Exeter, but it was only a year before I was off to university and on to the next adventure. That year felt like an eternity at the time, but you get past it. I’ve since finished university and graduate school, where I had new opportunities to travel and study abroad. I’ve worked in New York and Toronto, where I’m based today working for a corporate affairs consultancy, advising on high-profile mergers and acquisitions, proxy contests and bankruptcies. And in the fall, my wife and I will be moving to the UK so I can do my MBA at the University of Oxford. 


My Rotary Youth Exchange opened my eyes to the world and opened the door to all that has followed in my life. My story would not be the same without that experience. 


Nick Anstett

Exeter student who travelled to Germany from August 2003 – July 2004

Nick was sponsored by the Rotary Club of St. Marys.