The Rotary Club is an international organisation with more than 1.2 million members who come together to create positive, lasting change in communities around the world. Among the numerous civic and charitable initiatives organised by the club are international scholarships, whereby outstanding students from schools and colleges in different countries are given the opportunity to study in mainstream education in another country for an entire school year, living with a host family to acquire language skills and life and cultural experiences.
One of these students is Madeleine Wedding, aged 17, from Gardener, Kansas, who has been in Spain since August 2013 and who is studying at the state secondary school in Benissa, Alicante. She is studying sciences in the baccalaureate course and as well as coping with lessons in Spanish she has also had to grapple with the difficulties of the local language, Valenciano.
How long did it take before you started understanding what was going on around you?
For the first few days I didn’t understand anything at all and I felt quite isolated. Everybody was so nice though and tried to speak English to help me out the best that they could. Within three months I could really understand everything. The Valenciano makes it more difficult and I wasn’t expecting to have to learn two different languages at the same time.
What made you want to take part in this programme?
The biggest thing was wanting to learn Spanish for my future career but I also wanted to learn about other cultures of the world rather than just the United States. I want to be a doctor and to work for an NGO such as Doctors without Frontiers, so I am going to specialise in infections and tropical diseases. I know that if I speak a couple of languages fluently I will be able to communicate much better with my future patients. That goes for the United States too, because there are so many Spanish speakers… even in Kansas.
What have been the highlight of your time in Spain?
The whole thing has been a highlight. I’ve learned more about myself, I’ve learned another language and I am finding I can understand other languages because I know a Latin language. I see the world differently now.
For more information about the Rotary Club see www.rotary.org
Written by Juliet Allaway