Every year, Central States Rotary Youth Exchange hosts a conference for a few days at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is no small conference, as it has students from North Dakota, Northern Minnesota, Ontario, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana. My district – 5580 – was sort of on the outer brinks, which meant a lot of traveling for us. A total of seventeen districts showed up, with our district easily being the largest area wise, but not people wise since North Dakota, Northern Minnesota, and the part of Ontario in our district is very spread out.

At this district, outbounds, inbounds, rebounds, and rotex all show up. Parents of the outbounds, rebounds, and rotex show up too, so it is a very good opportunity for all terrified outbound parents to learn what it will be like. For the outbound students, it is a chance to bond with the fellow outbound students and learn from the rebounds, rotex, and inbounds who went/live in the country they are going to.

It’s also nothing short of the most insane thing I have ever been a part of. I will attempt to sum it up in one post.

I got there around five o’clock on Thursday, after flying there from the Fargo airport. I immediately met up with Aric (Outbound to Poland) from my district, and then met some rebounds from my district. The rest of the night consisted of me meeting up with the rebound from Denmark who gave me advice the past five months – Cecilia – and running into other Danish inbounds and outbounds! I ended up spending most of the night talking with two other outbounds to Denmark, as the dance was extremely hot.

On about four and a half hours asleep, I got up the next morning to do the many activities for outbounds. We learned how to get good pictures on exchange, officially met the other outbounds/inbounds/rebounds from our country, went to a travel agent session, and had the flag ceremony.

The flag ceremony was insane in itself. All of the countries were represented, and all of the outbounds walked out with their flags. When we got down to the stage, the rest of the outbounds who weren’t carrying the flag sat down. After all flags were there, the people carrying the flags walked all around us and it was really incredible.

However, that was not the craziest part of the flag ceremony for me. While in line for the flag ceremony, I was talking with another outbound to Denmark, and we soon figured out that we had both deferred from Macalester. The chances of this are very small, as Macalester’s average class size is around 500 and Denmark is not a large country. After more talking, we figured out that we had even gone to the same Welcome to Macalester weekend and even one of the same sessions. We were both freaking out – and I know I still am – and I am so glad to have met her! Here is us fairly soon after we found out:

We spent the rest of the night getting to know each other – and for me, getting to know her and some others from her district. I can’t wait to get to know Shannon better, and I feel so lucky that I have another possible future Scot with me in Denmark.

My roommates and I were both tired that night, so we actually got sleep. I got at least five hours in, and I woke up feeling refreshed for the big day ahead. I spent the first part of the day hearing stuff from some really great speakers, which I had also done the previous day.

The afternoon was especially fun because we got to watch soccer (Brasil vs. the world) and volleyball while hanging out. After that, it was the Great Pin Exchange. I came in with about 200 pins, and gave away about 150 of them. I still haven’t finished putting all of them on my jacket, but it was extremely intense. I love making pins, it was fun getting to send them all around the world!

After that,  dinner took place, and we headed over to the much anticipated talent show. This was especially exciting for our district because we knew that one of the performances – Kazuki from Japan’s dance to Gangnum Style – would blow everyone away. I also knew that Tangkwa from Thailand’s song “Just Fine” would melt everyone’s hearts.

The talent show was nothing short of amazing. Tangkwa’s song was one of the cutest things ever, and all of the acts were very impressive. The final act, however, made me telling everyone how great Kazuki was going to be an understatement. Kazuki’s dance is so good that it doesn’t matter how prepared you are, he will still blow your mind. Halfway through the dance he had the crowd on their feet, and it is safe to say that our district could not be more proud to have him.

The rest of the night started with me intending to swim, instead dancing for a little bit, talking with others for a long time, and eventually actually going swimming with Shannon and her friends at the end. I also received the news of my second host family that night, and definitely got less sleep because I was texting my host sister late into the night.

The next morning I work up on three and one half to four hours of sleep, otherwise known as dead exhausted. It was so hard leaving my exchange family, but wonderful knowing that we would see each other again in a year, after having the best year of our lives yet.

(Hannah to Japan and I, just before leaving)

There will be a part two to this, most likely in my Wave Column. However, I will say this:

I am really ready and excited to start my new life in Denmark. My host families seem great, the small town over there has the nickname “redneck country”, and I already have plans to run a half marathon and drink coffee over there. I have a little over two weeks until I leave Minnesota for my family reunion, and after a week in Oregon, I am leaving from the Portland airport to Denmark. It is all going by so fast, but I couldn’t be more excited to where it is going.