From Turkey to South Gippsland
THE ROTARY Club of Leongatha, with the support of the Leongatha RSL, continued to strengthen bonds between Turkey and Australia this year with its exchange program.
Every year, one student each from Leongatha, Mary Mackillop and South Coast Christian secondary colleges are given the chance to live in Turkey for one month, learning about the culture, attending school and taking part in the ANZAC Day celebrations in Gallipoli.
In April, Hayley Maskell, Nadine Shields and Brittany Tennyenhuis were the lucky ones chosen for the program.
At a Rotary meeting at the RSL last week, the girls, along with chaperone Leonnie McCluskey, shared stories and photos of their time in Turkey, in particular detailing their incredible experience visiting Anzac Cove and Lone Pine.
Hayley described the service as “very moving”, but said it was their visit to Lone Pine to see the graves of all the fallen soldiers that was both emotional and confronting.
Five special guests were also welcomed at the meeting, with Turkish students visiting Australia in exchange for their hospitality in their own country.
Along with their teacher Ilgaz Kocaoglan, Jasmin Gengeloglu, Cansu Ulker, Albina Nart and Elif Karabacak spent a few weeks in South Gippsland staying with host families, sightseeing, attending school and learning about Australian culture.
The girls spoke about their family, friends and their school, Kadikoy Anatolian High School in Istanbul, which is famous for its football matches and hosts the biggest high school festival in Turkey.
They also educated Rotary members and guests on everything Turkey.
They spoke of their country’s history, including the Battle of Canakkale (Battle of Gallipoli) and their education, with Turkish schools known for setting the “world’s hardest tests”.
The girls also spoke of the extensive range of tourist attractions in Turkey, made mouths water with descriptions of local cuisine, and explained customs and traditions.
Ms Kocaoglan said it was a privilege for the girls to visit Australia with the help of Rotary and RSL.
“It is a pleasure and an honour to be here with you,” she said.
“We’re from completely different locations on Earth, but here we are interacting and learning from one another. I hope more students can take part next year.”
RSL president Graeme Heath said they were happy to support and promote the exchange program.
“I’m sure it was shocking for our girls to go from a town of 5300 people to a city of 16 million,” he said.
“Their adventures can be of lifelong value and are a learning experience that is better than any classroom textbook lesson.”
Rotary president Nick Dudley agreed it was a fantastic experience for both Leongatha and Istanbul’s brightest students, although admitted his own knowledge of Turkey didn’t “go past the Narre Warren Kebab Shop”.
The exchange students spent the weekend in Melbourne, with visits to the Healesville Sanctuary and an AFL game before flying home.
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