Posted by Rae Heston
       SPANISH exchange student Claudia Jiminez Sancho is hugely impressed by the Perth metropolitan public transport system.   "Public transport here is so good,” she enthused in her farewell to   her hosts and other supporters at the Palm Beach Rotary Club.  You can get everywhere so quickly.
   “On the island (Minorca, where her family lives) there is one bus every two hours.  So you walk everywhere.”  Menorca was only 45 kilometers long and about 16km wide.  Australia’s size was a   shock. “Here you can travel 35 minutes and you are not even in Mandurah!” She had learned a lot about another way of living during her year in Western Australia.
     She knew nothing about New Zealand before she came to Rockingham and went to the local high school.  Now she reckons she could go to the Land of the Long White Cloud “and speak like   them”.   One thing the school taught her very quickly was that her intended career was not for her.  She had intended studying nursing and becoming a midwife.  “But when I came to Australia I found   the school had a mini-hospital.  One of my subjects was in nursing and we were doing stuff that I discovered was not my thing.  I just don't want to do that.”
Claudia and President Kev
     Claudia said she was now undecided about what she wanted to do with her life. Maybe she would become a teacher or a policewoman — she really didn’t know.    She would return home to   summer holidays then complete high school.  After that she would be forced to leave the island to study at university because there was no uni there.  She promised to let the club know what she   was doing when she embarked on her career studies.  “I am open to ideas.”
    Among the things Claudia found to love Down under were Tim Trams.  “I have 12 packets of Tim Tams to take home and will get another six,” she said. She also loved barbecues.  They were such   a sharing thing.  People would “come to your place” and make a meal an occasion. Rick and Kerilee Dawson taught her how to make a pavlova and that o only white vinegar could be used in this   treat.  “Brown vinegar is disgusting.”  Australia’s eating timetable was very different to Spain’s  “but now I am used to it”.  She had can 15 kilograms in weight here (her aversion to anything remotely healthy such as fruit and vegetables might have had something to do with that — editor),
   Australians did everything much earlier than the Spanish, she said. They got up earlier and ate earlier. Claudia thanked her host families during her year’s stay: Laurie and Nola Smith, Rae Heston,   Richard and Teresa Carlson, Erica and Dave Hilton, Deb Hamblin and Andy Muir, and finally the club’s youth director Kerilee Dawson and husband Rick. She found the constant shifts stressful,   Sometimes she didn’t feel like unpacking.But it also meant she met many more people. She thoroughly enjoyed her visit to Kevin and Jo McDonnell’s holiday home on an island in the Murray River,   the Mandurah week for all of the district’s exchange student,  an Esperance visit with the Hilton family and the north-west safari “was the best trip of my life”. 
   Claudia told the meeting she had leaned “so many things” during her year in WA.
  • Firstly, “to help others — it is so easy to help people,” she said. She was proud of herself for learning this from the Rotarian's.
  • She also “learned to be more independent” because “I had to look after myself”.  She believed she would find it difficult back in  Spain, re-adapting to being in the family home with her mother over her.
  • Her third lesson was how to get out of her comfort zone.
  • The fourth lesson was “how to be broke”.  When she arrived she was warned to be careful with her money but found the shops she passed through too tempting.
     Claudia said she was looking forwards to going home and meeting her god-daughter, who was born during her time in Australia. She was keeping her arrival date a secret from all but her parents,   want to surprise siblings, wider family and friends. District secretary for youth, Steve Barlow of the Mandurah club, reflected one this year’s student exchange program.  “We just love the kids, that’s   why we do what we do,” he said. “But we couldn’t do it without the support of the clubs.”