Judy Cochran briefly introduced Hannah Shafiei who is now 17 years old and going into Grade 12 at Western Canada High. She has seen how Hannah has grown and matured, embracing the entire YEX experience from travel to friends, to school, to her loving host family — everything there is about exchange.
So, Hannah entertained us for the next 15 minutes telling us of her experiences. One line I love: "Exchange isn't a year in your life. It's your life in a year". From the moment she arrived in Italy, Hannah knew that she would become a completely different person. She came to love her host families as her family — including two insane cats! She lived in a town called Leco with six other exchange students and so she gained another family.
She told us about sonder, that everyone has a life and story as complex and deep as the universe itself. This group of exchange students learned to lean on each other for support and love unconditionally. They had amazing experiences and travels together, including places like Paris, Amsterdam, Geneva, Berlin, Slovenia, Slovakia, Venice, Brussels, and Prague.
Hannah is not what she felt a "typical" Canadian would be capable of — she doesn't skate and she doesn't ski. She fell in love with the picturesque landscape all around her and enjoyed the beauty and challenges as an avid hiker. She took the role of being a Canadian ambassador very seriously, displaying a deep sense of pride to be a Canadian and all Canada has to offer us.
To quote Hannah, "I lived in Italy knowing that for some people, I'd be one of the only Canadian they'd ever meet. I worked towards making a lasting impression of peace and kindness - something that truly reflects who we are as Canadians. And honestly, that's what being Canadian truly is. That is what sets us apart. I was learning and absorbing the Italian culture, while leaving a faint mark of Canadian values to be remembered by". Amazing words and insights coming from someone who was 16 years old at the time.
Hannah embraced a "new" and different Christmas. It was a time with her new family — her new friends that were on exchange. Hannah couldn't find a turkey, so she cooked a duck — not traditional Canadian but the Brits are smiling!
Here again are Hannah's own words to explain what the exchange meant to her. "Exchange helped me realize something. Who I am, who we are, is not as simple as that. We, all 7 billion of us, deep down, are all the same. We are all people. And that is what motivated me so much to go through with my exchange. Because I had a thirst in me that needed to be quenched- and it would only be satisfied if I threw myself head-first into a foreign country and experienced life as someone else. I dream of exploring. I dream of learning. I dream of experiencing everything that this life has to offer me and I am ready to turn fate into my own hands, and create my own future. I learned that the differences between us all are what makes us our own version of perfect. I believe that perfection does exist. I believe that each perfect in his or her own version of it.
Hannah closed with a heartfelt thank you to our Rotary club for making all this possible!!!
Thank you for sharing with us, Hannah. You have done yourself proud, your sponsor club of Calgary West is proud and your country proud.
Darren was the official thanker and recognized how youth programs such as exchange have such a profound effect on making a difference in our youth. He noted Hannah's comments about diversity is strength and by learning and embracing the differences we are stronger and more tolerant together. The Boltman was presented to Hannah.
as reported in the Weekly Westerner bulletin by Judy Cochran
Marie Rickard introduced our guest speaker, Hannah Shafiei, whom she described as a bright, intelligent young woman, who loves seeking adventure and, as our outgoing exchange student, is now leaving for Lake Como in Italy.
Hannah is 16 years old, born in Ontario, and is in Grade 11 in Calgary. She speaks English, French and Farsi and has a goal of being fluent in 10 languages by the time she turns 40. She is a musician (in a wide variety of instruments) and loves wrestling and technology. She enjoys learning new cultures, tasting new foods and seeking new adventures. Her career ambition is to be a vet or, failing that, to become a lawyer! Hannah has family connections across the world and her biggest influencers have been her grandma and her parents.
Hannah presented a slide show of family, Canadian scenes and Canadian facts. She is definitely looking forward to her Italian experience and, with her bright, bubbly personality, she is sure to have a memorable experience. At the request of club members, Hannah promised to keep us up to date on her year in Italy.
Karl Herzog thanked Hannah for her entertaining presentation, saying it reminded us of what it was like to be young. He stated we look forward to following her adventures, and presented her with our Boltman. reported in the Weekly Westerner bulletin by Les Morgan