April 1, 2013

Dear Rotary District 6040:


Our daughter, Kate Morris, has been in Austria since August as a participant in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. We not only want to thank you for sending her to Austria through your program, but we also would like to explain exactly why we are so grateful to you.


This time last year I was working on the extensive application for the youth exchange program. It was more complex and comprehensive than any college application I’ve ever completed! I learned that the Rotary Club is very careful about screening applicants so that they send abroad only young people who are mature, confident, and flexible enough to make their experience a successful one. Moving to a foreign country where you do not speak the language is a tremendously challenging endeavor that is not a good idea for every teenager. I very much appreciated Rotary’s close attention to Kate’s application and interviews. Everyone involved in the process had Kate’s best interests in mind. They did not approve Kate just because her grandfather, Bob Kroenert, was a member of Rotary Club 13 at the time. They approved her because they believed she was up to the challenge, would have a successful and safe year abroad, and would be a quality representative of Rotary.


Since the day Kate arrived in Krems, Austria, she has been on cloud nine and we have been waiting for the “honeymoon period” to come to an end. We are still waiting! The intensive German language program Kate attended gave her a significant boost at the beginning of her exchange. This language class, plus Kate’s first host family and her high school classes, helped her become conversational in German – something she probably would not be even after taking three or four years of German in an American high school. Now that she is living with her second host family, Kate is having no problems communicating in every situation.


With her two host families, Kate has learned to prepare a number of German and Austrian dishes, she has gone skiing in the Austrian Alps, sailed on the Danube River, established lifelong relationships, and had the time of her life. She has also received the care and support she needs to feel comfortable and secure in her homes away from home. The Rotary Youth Exchange officers carefully scrutinize potential host families to make sure they will provide solid homes for their students. We have tried to show our appreciation to these two wonderful families, but how do you properly thank people who are treating your daughter as one of their own and providing for her every need? They even do her laundry! This is something we don’t do for her, so we have been preparing her to embrace chores again upon reentry!


The Rotary program in Austria has managed to take dozens of teens from around the world and bring them together in friendships that will undoubtedly last a lifetime. Kate’s best friend in Austria, Laura, is from Colombia (South America, not Missouri)! Kate also has close friends from Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Through Rotary, these students have gotten to go on ski trips, travel in and outside of Austria, and convene in Vienna for a number of fun activities. Many of them, including Kate, will participate in the optional “Eurotour” beginning in May. This is a chance for them to travel to a number of European countries, and Kate can’t wait.


Along with our daughter Elizabeth, we will meet up with Kate in June in Croatia. From there we plan to travel to Vienna and Krems, where we hope to meet Kate’s host families in person. We can hardly wait to see Kate again, but we know not to expect the daughter who left Kansas City last August. We are not entirely sure what to expect, but we know this: When we hug Kate for the first time in ten months, we will be embracing a different person. She has become even more mature, self-assured, and confident than she was last year. She has become nearly fluent in a foreign language, learned to navigate her way through any number of unfamiliar situations, and joined a group of people from around the world in lifetime friendships. She has truly become a citizen of the world, and for all of that we thank Rotary.




Ann and Dan Morris