Helen Oberuch, a senior at Corona del Sol High School, had a dream of being immersed in the sights and culture of another country. This summer, that dream will come true as she travels to Brazil through an exchange program with the Kyrene Corridor Rotary Club.
“I wanted to do a gap year from high school to college,” Oberuch said. “The exchange program is for a year, so it was a perfect fit.”
After applying through Tempe Sister Cities for a traveling opportunity, she said she made it to the final round but wasn’t picked as a delegate. Soon after, Oberuch began looking for other opportunities to visit another culture.
After learning that her aunt joined a Kyrene Corridor Rotary exchange program, she reached out to the organization for the same opportunity. Oberuch lives with her aunt and uncle in Tempe.
“My aunt went to Chile through the club, and my uncle lived in Germany before,” Oberuch said. “They really encouraged me to join the program.”
Oberuch is currently in her third year of Spanish at Corona, and said she is looking forward to learning Portuguese while she’s in Brazil.
“I heard Portuguese is totally different from Spanish, so I think it’s going to be difficult,” she said. “It’s just going to take some time.”
Oberuch will be living with three host families during her time there, and is looking forward to visiting the “Cristo Redentor” (“Christ the Redeemer) on the peak of Corcovado Mountain. The large statue representing Christ is among the largest statues in the world, standing 135 feet tall above the city of Rio de Janeiro.
“I also want to take an Amazon tour if I have the opportunity,” Oberuch said. “I don’t have any set plans, but I’m looking forward to visiting the beaches and other places.”
Though she said she’s not sure what cities she’s going to be living in, Oberuch is looking forward traveling while there to experience different aspects of Brazil’s culture.
“It takes a strong person to be flexible enough to live abroad for a whole year,” she said. “It’s going to make me stronger just knowing that I can do that.”
While she’s graduating this year from Corona, Oberuch said she will have to take another year of high school in Brazil to correspond with their school year.
Also, she noted, “They are much more formal there. I’ll have to wear a uniform, so that will be different; but it’s going to be an English school.”
Oberuch said she plans on bringing pictures of her home in south Tempe, along with photos of her family members, to show her host families, as well as bring back a collage of photos from her experience. The Kyrene Corridor Rotary Club will learn second-hand from Oberuch about Brazil’s diversity, culture and history when Oberuch gives her report to the club upon her return.
“The great thing about Rotary is my host families…participate voluntarily, and do not receive pay,” Oberuch said. “I think the whole purpose of the program is to become immersed in another culture and learn a new language.”
To learn more about the Kyrene Corridor Rotary Club, as well as its exchange program, visit www.clubrunner.ca/CPrg/home/homeD.asp?cid=4017 .