Just over a year ago, I entered the airport in Melbourne to begin my own great adventure. I was very nervous and scared but also filled with enthusiasm and excitement, curious about what was waiting down under for me to embrace. Though thinking back now, I believe my experience already began when I filled out my application, arranged a visa and walked through that gate in Stockholm.
My name is Tyra Malmstrom and I was a Rotary Exchange student in District 9800, hosted by the Rotary Club of Footscray 2016-2017. I come from a small country town in Sweden that I adore but leaving Australia just over 3 weeks ago was like leaving home.
Going away on exchange is not easy, and I had my ups and downs. However, with all the help from Rotarians, my families and school friends that year ended up being more than fantastic and the parts I found more challenging are the parts I learnt the most from. I will give you an example to begin with and it includes the senior school involvement during a year abroad. Personally, I found that the connections I made in school are like proof that I made it in the end. This is because I found school so hard in the beginning mostly regarding finding friends, and I didn’t really recognise myself because it felt like I had lost what I used to be during my trip across the world. Therefore, now having very close friends and having had a lot of fun in school proves to me that what I felt was impossible in August last year actually wasn’t.
This new social network is the outcome that I probably value the most and with all my new friends and family I felt very rich being back in Sweden. My 3 families are all home to me and they are all amazing in different ways. Before I came to Australia, I was afraid of the concept of moving around, I was afraid of never feeling at home during the whole year. However, today I say the opposite! This exchange gave me 3 Australian families instead of one, and that feeling is very special and I love it. As I said, my 3 families were very different but as good as each other. I went from being the only child together with the cat in my first family; to having 3 younger brothers, a lizard, a rabbit, a dog and a couple of chickens; and then to being the youngest in a house full of working or studying adults. They were all very giving and I will forever be grateful for everything they all did for me.
The District also helped us exchange students create strong bonds with each other through arranging camps, inviting us to the District Conference and offering us a Safari trip around Australia. We all share the rare experience of an exchange and I believe that the understanding of each other’s situations is what makes us so close. I can now say that I know and want to visit people in the USA, Brazil and Japan. and all over Europe.
The Rotary Club of Footscray was a stable and continuous part of my time in Australia and being with the club every week was an honour and something that I already miss a lot. I barely knew what Rotary actually did before I went on exchange, but I can now say that I am amazed by all the great and selfless work you do, and I hope that can be a part of it in the future. I have already joined ROTEX in Sweden and hope to be able to help and not be the one being helped by you all.
To continue, I thought about the fact that others say they see a change in my personality and I believe that I feel it as well, but it is hard to put it into words. When I left Sweden and what was my safety, my confidence decreased and it took some time to find it again. Though during this period of finding my way back I also believe that my confidence grew even stronger, jumped to a higher level. However, this doesn’t mean that I lacked confidence before Australia it just proves that exchange is very challenging and that it makes us even stronger and better versions of ourselves.