Josefine Paessens has made many new friends and family in Yarrawonga while on Rotary Exchange from Germany.
Last Thursday with a tear in her eye, Josie, as she has been affectionally known while living in Australia, left her home of the last 12 months to return to Germany.
Whilst living in Yarrawonga for the past year Josie was hosted by three families, Christy, Gary and Halle Warrender; Brett, Sam, Oliver and Izzy Ridley and Ben, Robyn, Oliver, Mabel and Maisie Cope.
Josie also attended Sacred Heart College for part of year 10 and 11 and enjoyed the many differing aspects of life in Australia compared to Germany.
“I have loved Yarrawonga and all the activities I got to experience like spending all of summer on the lake,” Josie said.
“My English wasn’t good when I first arrived, and I thought people would get mad when I kept saying sorry, excuse me, but the teachers and my friends were very good. They helped me and took their time to understand me and help me understand.
“It was funny too with our meal times when I first arrived because we have our big meal for lunch and not much at night whereas it was the other way here.
“I now have friends here in Yarrawonga, but I was also able to meet up with the other students on exchange from all over the world and made new friends there too.”
Although seeming like a scary and equally exciting experience moving to the other side of the world for a year, Josie said she had always wanted to experience the Rotary exchange program.
“My dad is a Rotary member in Germany and my siblings had all done exchanges, so I knew from a young age I wanted to do an exchange once I was able,” Josie said.
“My siblings went to other European countries, but I wanted to see what Australia was like and was lucky to be able to come here.
“I was 14 when I arrived and got to celebrate my 15th birthday here.”
Rotary Club of Yarrawonga Mulwala Youth and Vocation Committee member Marg Best said there were many hurdles that needed to be completed for exchange students, but Rotary made a great choice in selecting Josie.
“Rotary is very careful of who they pick and there is an interview process they complete to decide on who is selected,” Marg said.
“There is also a protocol that for us to receive an exchange student we also have to send one out.
“We are so pleased that Josie was able to live here for the past year and she has been a great addition to the town.”
As expected there were many differences between life in Australia and Germany with Josie taking any opportunity she had to try something new.
“I loved outdoor ed at school as we don’t have that in Germany as well as cooking classes,” Josie said.
“I also got to play football here which I enjoyed. I don’t think I was too good at it, but I had fun.
“It was a fantastic opportunity and I had a lot of experiences because I said yes to anything new that people asked me to do.
“People are very open and welcome, and I am so happy I got to experience the Australian life.
“Without Rotary it wouldn’t have been the same, they made it a great exchange.”
Josie also attended most Yarrawonga Mulwala Rotary meetings and at the June monthly meeting her bubbling personality came through as she addressed the club and was presented with a farewell gift.
She described all the adventures and experiences she has had over her year in Australia.
She particularly spoke of her love for her host parents over the year, as well as, among other things, the safari that she and fellow exchange students were able to experience, travelling the Great Ocean Road, camping and boating, the Australian Open Tennis and playing football.
Marg also added having Josie stay in Yarrawonga has been beneficial for Rotary too.
“Josie is such a lovely girl and was willing to take part in many activities, attend most of our Rotary meetings and also taught us a lot about her homeland,” Marg said.
“It has been great having her here and we are sad to see her go.”
Just before school holidays and on one of Josie’s last days at her Australian school, Sacred Heart College thanked Josie for being apart of their school community.
“They had a whole school assembly where they thanked me, which I found funny because I was thanking them but they said I also taught them new things. It was great,” Josie said.
“I am very glad that I got to live in Yarrawonga for the year and make all these new friends and family and experience life in Australia.
“I want to thank Rotary, Sacred Heart College and my Australian families for my time in Australia and I will miss them all.”
For more information about Rotary Exchange or the Yarrawonga Mulwala Rotary Club, please call 0474 645 005.