Three Rotary youth wearing their blue blazers. (Left to right) Kelsey, Mette, and Laura

This last summer, thousands of students from around the world donned their Rotary blazers, hugged their families goodbye, and jetted away to live in a foreign country for nearly a year. They left everything that was familiar and comfortable to them in order to learn a new language, a new culture, and have a greater appreciation for the world around them.

Most Rotary exchange students from around the world wear the navy blue blazer. A few exceptions are the Canadian students wear red, French wear light blue, and Taiwanese and Australian students wear green. This is the standard uniform that identifies a Rotary exchange student.

If you see a young adult in a Rotary blazer traveling through the airport, you’ll notice lots of emotion: excitement, nervousness, sadness, and happiness. I remember leaving Tucson en route to Denmark and having these same feelings. Wearing my blazer to Denmark, I only had my Rotary name tag and a simple pin that identified I was from Arizona.

Throughout my year of foreign exchange, I met over 200 exchange students from around the world. During each greeting, we would trade jacket pins with each other. Prior to our departure, students were instructed to purchase or create pins that represented themselves and their country. The pins we collected were placed on our blazers and then worn to Rotary events that symbolized a bond, a small but personal connection between one country and another. These bonds are perhaps the greatest souvenirs Rotary students can take home with them. I am so proud to show off my blazer because it really is a symbol of the diverse people and the relationships that I formed during my time abroad.

I recently returned from my study in Denmark. While traveling through the airports, I was approached numerous times by current Rotarians and former exchange students from around the world. They instantly recognized my distinctive navy blue blazer and they reminisced with me about their experiences. It is an exhilarating feeling knowing that I am now part of a worldwide community. The blazer is a badge of honor in itself, displaying my connections and memories from a year that will forever be one of the best of my life.

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