Former exchange student shares insights with Westfield-Mayville Rotary

WESTFIELD — On July 17, Brenna Wright, a former Rotary Youth Exchange Student and Westfield native, presented a program titled “Rotary & Me: Life After Youth Exchange” to members of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville during a meeting held at The Parkview in Westfield. She was introduced as the guest presenter by Rotarian Luci Petrella, Club Youth Exchange Chair. Wright spoke about the 11 months she spent as an outbound exchange student to Alicante, Spain, when she was 17 years old and was a high school senior, and also of her travels since then. The Westfield-Mayville Rotary sponsored her 2014-2015 exchange experience.

Alicante is a city and the capital of the province of Alicante, Spain. Founded in 324 BC, it is a historic Mediterranean seaport. Its population is over 330,000. During her time there, Wright resided with one host family, learned to fluently speak Spanish, and made many friends from other countries. Also, she was able to tour France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Wright said, “The year before I was an exchange student, I attended the Rotary SLAPSHOT (Student Leadership Award Program for Students High On Training) session in Ancaster, Ontario. This helped to give me confidence and to prepare me for my travels. I earned all of my high school graduation credits before I went to Spain, so that when I returned I could graduate with my peers.”

She continued, “At meetings of the Rotary Club of Elche, I had to quickly learn to conquer my fears and speak in Spanish in front of 250 people. While in Alicante, it would have been easy to be friends with other exchange students who were there from the U.S. But I was kind of stubborn, and I worked really hard to make friends with the local Spanish students.” Other than improving her Spanish language skills, Wright learned to enjoy family meal times that would typically last five or more hours, rather than having quick meals.

“My exchange experience in Spain sparked my interest in travel and ignited in me this passion to have the courage to seek new opportunities and meet many people in other countries,” Wright stated. Upon her return from Spain, Wright attended Jamestown Community College for two years and obtained an associate’s degree in communications. She spent a summer in London, England, and also returned to Alicante to visit with her host family and friends. In 2017-2018 she attended SUNY Brockport and spent three weeks in Brazil. Wright noted “how awesome it was to have some of my exchange student friends come to Westfield and meet my hometown friends.”

Wright is currently attending a Rotex conference in Taipei, Taiwan, for two weeks. A Rotex club is an organized group of Rotary Youth Exchange alumni that remains involved with Rotary by working closely with Rotarians in various districts. During this conference, the former youth exchange students will attend break-out sessions and gather for fellowship.

This September, Wright will spend her fall semester studying in Stirling, Scotland. Upon earning her bachelor of science degree in interpersonal/organizational communication with a minor in Spanish in May 2019, Wright plans to attend graduate school or apply to the Fulbright Student Program for a scholarship to return to Spain and teach English to students for one year. Wright thanked the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club for “taking a chance on a seventeen-year-old,” and she credited her parents Bob Wright and Kyle Brandhorst with being so supportive during her exchange experience and many travels. The Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville congratulates Brenna Wright on being a youth exchange alumna and a great ambassador of Rotary, and it wishes her much success during her future travels and career.