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Natasha Nodsle, right, and the rest of her Group Study Exchange teammates -- Malika Carter, MaryAnne Korsch, Kesley Myhre and Therese Lim -- spent time at the Temple of Confucius in Taiwan.
Natasha Nodsle, right, and the rest of her Group Study Exchange teammates -- Malika Carter, MaryAnne Korsch, Kesley Myhre and Therese Lim -- spent time at the Temple of Confucius in Taiwan.

It was trip of a lifetime, all thanks to Rotary

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An all-expense paid trip, learning a new culture and making new friends -- does that sound like a good use of your time away?

The Rotary Group Study Exchange program is looking for young professionals ages 25-40 to travel for one month next spring to Tasmania, Australia, and learn about the culture there, their specific trade in another country and be ambassadors from the United State Rotary program.

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Team members cannot be Rotary members though.

Two years ago, Natasha Nodsle's boss at SJE Rhombus, CEO Laurie Lewendowski, was talking about the program and encouraged some young professionals to apply. Nodsle did.

She went through the application and interview process and was chosen to represent Rotary in Taipei, Taiwan.

Each year, the exchange program goes to a different country.

"After you mentally prepare for it, you just want to be picked," Nodsle said.

Now she's helping recruit team members for the 2012 trip, which is May 20-June 21.

She said it takes a unique individual to go because they have to be prepared to spend a month to five weeks away from their family, job and life as they know it, basically.

But once there, it's a life-changing experience.

"It was unbelievable. I wish everyone would take part," Nodsle said. "It was beyond my expectations."

Being the human resources manager at SJE Rhombus, Nodsle spent a week in Taiwan learning about how various Taiwanese companies' HR departments work. She learned it was much different than the United States'.

Besides learning about each individual's trade, they also learn about the different foods, religion, language and how Rotary works in that country. Obviously the lessons learned vary from country to country.

"They really roll out the red carpet. You're treated like royalty," Nodsle said of the experience.

Rotary takes care of every expense except souvenirs.

Team members stay with Rotarians, a different family each week. They spend the days with the other team members, but evenings and weekends are spent with the host family. And then for a week, each team member learns about his or her specific trade.

Immersing oneself in another culture is what the trip is all about, and teaching others about the United States.

"When you're there, that's your job," she said.

While learning about another culture is the No. 1 purpose, building international relationships is a close No. 2, she said. Nodsle still keeps in contact with team members from here and with friends she made while in Taiwan.

At the same time a group is preparing to go to another country, a group from that county comes to this district and does the same thing, finding out what makes northern Minnesota Northern Minnesota and how their trade specialties are performed in not only the United States, but in the Midwest.

Nodsle said that going to Taiwan was beneficial to her because SJE Rhombus has a factory in China, and it helped her understand the culture better. It gave her a better global understanding all together, she added.

Once the team is back, members are "expected to present at Rotary meetings, explaining about the trip."

They are expected to share their experience with any group willing to listen, Rotary or not.

And team members are encouraged to join Rotary when they return.

"It's the experience of a lifetime," Nodsle said. "It will change your outlook on the world. It will really exceed expectations."

Go to the Rotary International website for a downloadable application (http://www.rotary.org/en/ServiceAndFellowship/Fellowship/GroupStudyExcha...) and fill it out and return it as indicated on the application before Aug. 22. Nodsle said anyone can contact her at nnodsle@yahoo.com and she can help as well.

Once candidates are chosen for an interview, which will take place Oct. 14 in Duluth, four team members and one team leader (who has to be a Rotarian) are chosen for the trip. They then meet several weekends before the May trip to get to know one another and to get organized and prepare for the trip.

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