Lucas Christ-Rowling is positively pumped about the opportunity to immerse himself in Colombian culture for the next 11 months. The Metchosin resident will soon head to Cali, the country’s second-largest city, about eight hours from Bogota.
The trip is part of a Rotary International Youth Exchange – in conjunction with the Sidney By The Sea Rotary – which arranges for students to spend a year in a foreign country while facilitating the same experience for students from other countries to come to Canada.
Christ-Rowling, 17, got interested in the program through his mother, who spent a year in Denmark as part of a Rotary International Youth Exchange when she was in high school in Ontario.
“She really encouraged me to try it and said it was a really rewarding experience,” he said. His mother, a former Rotarian, hopes there will be a similar program available for youth on the West Shore soon.
Christ-Rowling, part of the first class to graduate from Royal Bay secondary in June, will be returning to high school in Cali.
‘I want to accelerate learning Spanish,” he explained. “I’m also really looking forward to learning about the culture and history of Colombia.”
Christ-Rowling feels fortunate that the family he will stay with lives across the street from the school he’ll attend. That should expedite the learning curve, because he won’t have to waste time commuting, he explained.
While he plays drums, guitar and piano, Christ-Rowling has never learned to dance, so he is looking forward to that challenge as well. “It’s the salsa capital of the world,” he said.
Another aspect of the trip that intrigues him is the opportunity to play soccer. “I’m very excited about playing in a country where they are so passionate about the sport,” he said with noticeable enthusiasm. “The passion and energy is there every day for soccer and I’m really looking forward to experiencing that.”
Christ-Rowling will also be making presentations to different youth groups and organizations about what life is like in Canada.
“I’m also open to volunteering opportunities that arise,” he added.
Although he admitted being a little nervous about learning a new language and adapting to a different lifestyle and culture, Christ-Rowling said he’s fortunate that there is a well-organized support network in place.
“Living with a second family there will also give me a more personal connection to the country,” he noted.
Once his time in Colombia is complete, Christ-Rowling is leaning towards studying political science and humanities.
“Gaining a global perspective and understanding will help with that,” he said. “Being bilingual will help open doors to many education and career opportunities.”