Brendan Returns. Newspaper Story

Rotary exchange to Belgium memorable

Wyant back in GP to finish Grade 12 year

By AARON HINKS Herald-Tribune staff,  (Aug 4 2011)

Brendan Wyant learned some life lessons on a Rotary exchange to Belgium this past year. One of the most important was maturing independence.

“I was really interested in travelling,” Wyant, now 18, said. “It was always in my mind that I wanted to be part of an exchange program.”

One year ago, Wyant moved his life to Genk, Belgium, where he lived with three families throughout the city during his sojourn.

Wyant reunited with his family in mid-July – and coming back home was a lot more difficult than he imagined.

He has had to play catch-up the last month, getting in touch with friends that he left behind for his year of European adventure.

“My friends are not use to having me around, so they have their own plans with other friends,” he said.

“You almost have to force yourself back into things.”

Wyant left for Belgium at the beginning of his Grade 12 year at St. Joseph Catholic High.

Genk, an industrial city of about 64,000, is located in the central part of the small nation, in the area of Flanders. Its origins go back 1,100 years. It was recently voted by a major tourism body as the friendliest city in Europe.

Although he attended art school in Genk, he received no accreditation for his work and was held back a year to complete Grade 12 in Canada.

“For all the experiences, it’s definitely worth it,” he said. “You feel a lot more confident when you do something like this.”

It was his first time to Europe, and with help of the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie, he got to travel to different places such as Paris, London, and even into Italy.

Before making the move, he prepared himself for a different culture and different lifestyle.

“A big key to it is expecting it,” he said. “If you go over there expecting everything is the same as at home then it will be a huge shock.

“I was expecting a new world, but it was still a big change initially.”

Among a lot of other things, the most valuable skill Wyant learned was how to be an independent individual.

“A lot of times you are alone and you need to figure things out for yourself,” he said. “I’m an only child so it was a little bit easier for me.

“I know for other exchange students it was harder to get used to because they’re not used to being alone as much.”

Wyant says this will probably be the longest time he will ever spend away from home.

“If you go away to college you will most likely come home on Christmas or holidays. It felt like if I can go through this then there probably won’t be another time when I’m away from home for so long.

“I feel a lot more confident to do things and going out into the real world after high school.”

Through his long list of connections he made in Belgium, he wants to bring his parents, Eldon and Pauline Wyant, to the city where he spent a year of his life.

“My parents and I have already talked about visiting Belgium again.

“I tell my parents a lot of stories but I want to be able to show them where it all happened.

“It’s life lessons that you can never learn in high school, it really prepares you for real life.”

aaron@dailyheraldtribune.com

Twitter:@DHTAaron

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