Posted by Paul and Joel Lehman on Aug 30, 2017
LOCKPORT — The Rotary Club of Lockport welcomed home a local student who had spent the previous year studying in Austria at its weekly meeting Monday, while saying goodbye to an international student visiting from Argentina through the Rotary Youth Exchange program.
Katie Dickenson, 17, a Lockport High School graduate who will attend Hofstra University in the fall, presented her experiences living for a year in Bludenz, Austria to club members during a lunch meeting at the Lockport Country Club.
Dickenson, who will study music education at Hofstra, wore a traditional Austrian dress called a ‘dirndl” for her presentation, covered by her Rotarian blue jacket, which was adorned with dozens of pins and buttons from her travels all over Austria and Europe.
“I learned so much more than I could have ever imagined,” Dickenson said about the experience, where she lived with an Austrian family of five. “I have a more open view to the world now. Now I see the bigger picture.”
 Since 1929, Rotary International has sent young people around the globe to experience new cultures. Currently, about 9,000 students are sponsored by Rotary clubs every year. Typically, students are sent to another country for a year-long stay, generally living with multiple host families during the year and being expected to perform daily tasks within the household as well as attend school in the host country.
Dickenson’s experiences included a Eurotour through 16 cities. She took high school classes, studied German and made friends on every continent except Antarctica. The Lockport High School graduate showed Rotarians photos from Christmas in Austria, and of course shared her experiences hiking and skiing high in the Alps. She said she volunteered at the Winter Special Olympics which took place in Austria last winter and traveled to Munich, Germany with her host family.
As Dickenson returns home, Lockport Rotarians said farewell to Lorena Baez, a Rotary Youth Exchange student from Curuzú Cuatiá, Argentina, located in the northeastern part of the South American country.
Baez, 17, lived with two Lockport families while studying at the high school, and took part in a Discover America tour along with 83 other international students studying in the U.S. through the Rotary program.
“I expected to come to USA to experience a new life style, learn new things, visit new places, improve my English, discover myself and become more independent and mature,” Baez said. “Right now, a week before going back home, I can say that during this year I achieved all of that and more.”
Baez plans to return home to finish a semester of high school, then will study at a university in Buenos Aires next fall.
She noted during the meeting Monday that her favorite city on her tour was San Francisco and she particularly enjoyed Arizona and the Grand Canyon. But she added that Niagara Falls was beautiful and the winters didn’t bother her too much.
As Dickenson returns to Lockport and Baez travels home, Lockport native Becca Holz left Monday for her year in Austria through the Rotary Youth Exchange program.
The Holz family has hosted several exchange students recently, and through those relationships the Lockport High School student knew she wanted to participate, too.
“While on exchange I don't really expect much of myself but to gain a second home here. I expect to grow independently and become more mature. After working hard towards this exchange every student expects to come back home with a whole new view on their life that impacts future choices,” Holz said. She’ll live in the town of Salzburg.
Smiling as they hugged Rotarians Monday between bites of cake, both Baez and Dickenson return home with a lifetime of memories thanks to the international exchange program through the Rotary Club of Lockport.
“I’ve learned how community matters, no matter where you are,” Dickenson added.
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Released by,                                                
Paul E. Lehman                                             Written by,
Rotary Club of Lockport                               Joel M. Lehman
Public Image Committee Chair
1st photo: (left) Katie Dickenson ; (right) Lore Baez  2nd photo: Becca Holz