Would-be exchange student planning her own term abroad after Rotary trip scrapped

Four months ago, Hapnot Collegiate student Cherity Odut was getting ready for a Rotary Exchange term in Germany. A lot has changed since - COVID-19 hit, Odut graduated and her exchange term was over before it started.

Now, Odut is planning on possibly doing her own independent exchange once international travel is allowed.

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Odut was told she was accepted into the program in the spring and would be spending the 2020-21 school year in Germany, the country where members of her family lived before immigrating to Canada. Not long after she was told, the pandemic came to Europe, most international travel was banned and visa applications for Canadians planning to travel and live abroad were shelved.

The last point meant Odut’s plans were scuppered. Her papers had not yet fully cleared.

“I was very excited,” she said.

“It was shortly after we ended school. Around then, I got a call saying it would no longer be happening because I couldn’t get a worker’s visa and nobody would have been accepting people overseas.”

Odut had planned to spend the year in Germany before returning home, then travelling for some time before pursuing training as a border guard. Now, her plans have adapted due to worldwide changes.

“Honestly, it was really heartbreaking. I actually cried a little bit because I was so excited, but there’s nothing I can do. COVID-19 kind of took over everybody’s lives,” Odut said.

One way or another, Odut will be leaving Flin Flon soon - her family plans on moving to Ottawa whenever possible. After the move, Odut has thought of another way to get her international travel in. A family friend in Australia has coordinated with Odut, who has started planning to move abroad to do an impromptu exchange term without Rotary involvement - since Odut has graduated high school, she said she would not normally be eligible to do a Rotary Exchange term next year.

“It would be probably over a year until anything could happen. I’m waiting until I move, then I’ll get in contact with them and we’ll figure out the rest from there,” she said.

“It would be similar [to a Rotary Exchange], but it’s all done through myself. Nobody would be able to help me through that.”

During this hypothetical future term, Odut would likely find a temporary job for the duration of her stay - under rules for worker’s visas, she would need to be employed to stay in Australia.

“Even though it would be nice to go on the Rotary Exchange, I’d pretty much have to make up one of my own,” she said.

With the future looking uncertain and the present disappointing, Odut is not letting the drastic shift in plans get her down.

“I see it as like it was supposed to happen, like I wasn’t meant to go there just yet. I should mature more and then maybe get more of a feeling for the history that I wouldn’t get while still being a teenager,” she said.

“One hundred per cent, I still plan on getting to Germany eventually.”

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