Reflections on the Meaning of Being a Scholar
Trip Start Aug 02, 2009
11Trip End Ongoing
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In Almaty, few people have ever heard of Rotary International. After all, in the entirety of Kazakhstan, the ninth largest country in the world by territory, and where 15.4 million people live, there is only one club, and a relatively new club at that. Thus, when people here ask me what I am doing in Kazakhstan and I explain that I am here with the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, I invariably launch into an explanation of Rotary, of the Ambassadorial Scholarship, and of volunteering itself. While most people here understand the word volunteering, they cannot understand the concept of it. They cannot understand why someone would give their time, resources, and skills to other people for free. They do not trust volunteers, expecting that volunteering is simply a new ploy to take advantage of them in some way
I explain the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship as an effort to promote communication, understanding, and peace between two places. I explain the pillars of the scholarship: (1) promote little pockets of peace, (2) be an ambassador of good will, and (3) promote cultural exchange. I like to explain the scholarship as being an ambassador of American culture. I am in Kazakhstan to learn about life here, to discuss life in America with those who live here, to write home during my year abroad to share my experiences and all that I learn with those at home, and then to return home and encourage discussions and make speeches about Kazakhstan. I like to describe the purpose of my scholarship as building bridges of communication and understanding between Kazakhstan and the U.S. I also emphasize that Scholars from many countries travel to many other countries in order to weave the world together with these bridges of communication and understanding. I encourage them to consider becoming an Ambassadorial Scholar, and if they are interested, to apply to the local Rotary club, or if they are just interested in volunteering locally, I encourage them to contact the local Rotaract club.
Given my experiences this year and the year leading up to leaving for my scholarship year, I would encourage other Scholars, and anyone living, studying, or serving abroad for an extended period of time, not to worry, despite the challenges, despite not understanding what is going on in the host place, despite set backs, and despite rejections
I hope to continue to stay involved with Rotary for the rest of my life. I hope to encourage students to try for the Ambassadorial Scholarship, and I hope to promote the continued funding of Ambassadorial Scholarships among Rotarians. This is such a valuable program for acquainting Americans with new places and new ways of life, and for offering a real live example of an American to help those in other countries form their image of America without relying solely on the image presented by Hollywood. Hopefully, one day, I will become a Rotarian. If I do not, I hope to collaborate with Rotary in my future service projects. I will continue to serve for the rest of my life. It gives me such inspiration, it is such a wonderful challenge, and it feels so good to volunteer that I know that it will always be an integral part of my life. I am hoping to travel a fair amount in my work. Hopefully I will be able to help start Rotary, Rotaract, and Interact clubs in the places where I travel. At the moment, I will do whatever I can to help Rotary and to help future Ambassadorial Scholars.
-- Lastly, on a side note, I would like to alert everyone that I will be home June 4. I am planning on going to the District 5300 Conference in Nevada June 11. My sponsor club, the San Marino Rotary Club, is hosting a welcome home party for me June 27. I would be extremely happy to visit any other Rotary clubs that would be interested in hearing about Kazakhstan and Central Asia, or in hearing any of the talks that I have made in Almaty presenting the research I have done during my year studying abroad.