PARKERSBURG - A Parkersburg High School senior spent much of her junior year studying abroad in Spain through a program offered by Rotary International.
Elizabeth Morgan "Emmie" Martin, 18, of Parkersburg showed pictures and talked about her experiences staying for several months with a Rotary family in Guardamar del Segura, Spain, through the Rotary International Youth Exchange Program.
While the Rotary exchange program normally runs a full school year, Martin said visa issues kept her from traveling to Spain until last December, when she arrived just in time to celebrate Christmas. She attended high school in Spain for the rest of that school year and stayed a couple of months beyond, returning home in August to the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Photo by Wayne Towner
Elizabeth “Emmie” Martin, 18, of Parkersburg speaks Monday about her experiences as a Rotary International exchange student to the Parkersburg Rotary Club. Martin lived and attended high school in Spain between last December and this August.
Martin said her mother, Lisa Martin, is involved in Rotary's youth exchange programs so she learned about the program from her and from hearing presentations by students from other countries staying in the U.S. as part of the same Rotary exchange.
"I just thought it was really cool and I wanted to do it too," she said of participating in the exchange program.
Martin spent about a year of preparation before going to Spain, during which she attended meetings, wrote papers and filled out paperwork.
The city she stayed in is on the southeast coast of Spain. Much of her time was spent attending high school, just as she would at home. But Martin said she also had the chance to travel to different parts of Spain and visited Portugal with other Rotary exchange students from the U.S. and other countries.
Martin said what she enjoyed most was the opportunity to learn and immerse herself in another culture.
"Toward the end- it's kind of silly- but obviously the TV is in Spanish and I could watch TV in Spanish, just because I could. I didn't have to turn it to English or anything," she said with a laugh.
Martin said she would like to participate in similar programs in the future, if she has the opportunity. She would recommend it to any younger students who might be interested.
She plans to attend college after graduating from PHS at the end of the current school year, but doesn't have any firm plans or goals at this time. However, she believes her exchange experiences will be helpful in her future.
"It's definitely something to bring to the table when you're looking at colleges, that I've studied abroad and I'm bilingual and I can do all of these things," Martin said.
Lisa Martin, a member of Parkersburg Rotary Club's Youth Exchange Committee, said the local exchange program which her daughter participated in is offered through the Ohio-Erie Group of Rotary Clubs, which works with clubs in West Virginia, Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania and other states.
The local district of the Ohio-Erie Group sent three students this year to countries, but she thought Emmie was the first Parkersburg student to participate in the program in about 10 years.
Local students or parents interested in learning more about the youth exchange program can go online to www.ohioerie.org, she said.
"We would love to send students from Parkersburg through the Rotary program on a regular basis," Lisa Martin said.