Lauren O’Brien – A year in Brazil – 12 September 2017

Our guest speaker this week was Wellington school, 6th year pupil, Lauren O’Brien. Lauren is in sixth year and currently applying to universities (first choice Oxford) to study law. She is passionate about languages and is involved in extra-curricular musical activities. She also competed in this year’s Rotary ‘Youth Speaks’ competition, her team coming first in the local heat.

Lauren emigrated with her family to Canada when she was four and at school S4 level she applied successfully to the Canadian, ‘Port Perry Rotary Club’ for a 1-year sponsorship through the ‘Youth Exchange’ scheme to travel to a foreign country and learn its language. Lauren was offered sponsorship to go to Brazil and was “over the moon” at the opportunity to study Portuguese.

Her host families (which were changed every 3 months) lived in Bauru in the state of São Paulo and this allowed Lauren to pick up the language quickly so that by the second school seminar she could converse confidently. She was expected to observe certain house-rules and to attend weekly Rotary club meetings.

There were another 50 to 60 exchange students in the district and this provided Lauren with a great support network and a means to enjoy Brazilian social life. This included trips to places such as Rio Negro on the Amazon and the coastal town of Nordeste.

Lauren said that the opportunities given her by Rotary International’s ‘Youth Exchange’ scheme had had a major impact on her life in many ways. In the following question and answer session, Lauren’s dad, Michael, echoed this and said that Laren had left home a schoolgirl and returned a year later an independent young woman.

Walter Walsh thanked Lauren for her most enjoyable talk and wished her good luck in her future university studies.