Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 12, 2013

Lessons from France: Exchange trip coming to a close

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

CHAMBERY, FRANCE — With every city we visit and every Rotary Club we meet in France, our connection and respect for the organization and our host country grows and deepens. As does our understanding that the world and its population of humans are all linked no matter the differences in language, culture or geography.

In the last week, we traveled from small villages in the Savoie department of the Rhone-Alpes region, including Cordon and Saint Jean de Maurienne to the larger lake cities of Annecy and Chambery. We have made quick jaunts into Italy and Switzerland, too.

We arrived at our last stop, Grenoble, on Thursday and on Monday our trip will end. Saying goodbye to one another and to the scores of new friends we have made here will be hard. It’s already been difficult each time we moved from one club’s care to the next.

We will no doubt recall the last four weeks throughout the rest of our lives and I am confident the connections we have made with our hosts will live on and flourish, too.

The enduring result of our trip, I hope, will be the wider view of the world we now have and the desire to continue broadening our individuals perspectives.

Already we have learned so much. With each site we have visited here, whether medical, energy, education, manufacturing, historical, government or cultural, we have expanded our knowledge and understanding of France’s history and its modern society.

With each day, new connections are made with issues abroad and at home. Our awareness of the increasingly interconnected world we live in is expanding and our ideas about it are changing too. There are so many similarities and yet so many differences among us, the most important being that we look at the world through different lenses, each tinted by our country or culture’s history as well as our individual experiences.

As a result, we think about and approach the same issues or problems very differently at times. I’ve seen so many examples in France. Regardless, our futures are as linked as our pasts. Acknowledgment and consideration of another way can only be helpful and it should not be feared.

As our Rotary International Group Study Exchange wraps up, that is what I will walk away with. I believe what Rotary was giving me was an opportunity to see no matter how big the world may seem at times, it is small, yet diverse and beautiful. And despite how difficult it may be at times, I will strive to communicate the commonalities.

Rotary has inspired me, and so many before me, to look for them. Then, once I find them, to do what I can to appreciate the differences, and work toward a better future for us all.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com