Posted by Editor: FDBobko on Sep 17, 2020
September 10,  2020
Micah Warner-Carey
HMB Rotary Exchange Student to Belgium
Transformational 7 Months
Article by Susan Kealey
Photos by Dianne Bobko

Our speaker this week was Micah Warner-Carey telling us about his year in the Rotary Youth Exchange Experience in La Louviere, Belgium (hometown of Caroline Gossart, former Rotary Exchange Student to our club and now an Honorary Member). 

Micah started by showing us his blazer which is twenty pounds heavier!  We were treated to a geography lesson on Belgium—Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia, oh my!  Actually the geography lesson helped when we got to the culture portion of the program. 




He was treated to a welcome party upon arrival. His three host families were there, and he got his first chance to eat Belgium fries. His first host family helped set up his new life seamlessly. His host mom and sister both had been exchange students. They treated him to a surprise trip to Paris—lol, he fell asleep in the car and woke up in Paris!  

His school had 1,800 students. They study 13 subjects at a time in economics, science, language arts and art. He chose art. There is no middle school, grade 1-6 and 1-6. School starts at 7 am and goes to 4 pm. The culture is very different; there are no school sports or clubs, just academics. There are many extracurricular activities such as school trips, his art class took a trip to Spain. 


Madison de Jeunesse - Micah is a drummer, and he was able to take music lessons and immerse himself into the community through music. He also participated in Run For Fun Chappelle, an annual community fun run. La Raal is the local football/soccer team. There is a big music scene locally, and he went to a lot of events. There were three other exchange students in his community. Rolex is the youth version of Rotary, they coordinate the youth exchanges. 

The unexpected - He didn’t expect to run a 10k in an elf costume!  He made an amazing group of friends including other exchange students. Art classes were something he hadn’t done before, but enjoyed. 



Second host family -  He moved at New Year's and learned the three kisses on the cheek tradition; it took him 45 minutes to make his way around the room!  His second host family imports cheese from Italy and owns a grocery store and are of Italian heritage. There are some amazing ping pong players in Belgium, and he got to improve his game playing with his host father. 

Travel - Travel is easy in Belgium; while there he traveled to Paris, Barcelona, Cologne and Italy. All exchange students went to Barcelona; he went a second time with his art class. The Cologne trip was by bus with 60-70 people; they went to the German Christmas market—great views and food. He went on a ski trip to Italy with his second and third host families. He saw beautiful views of the Dolomites. Belgium has the most trains per capita, and it is easy to just hop on one. He saw WWI trenches and Waterloo. The history and landmarks are amazing. 

Culture - There are regional differences and language differences. Football is soccer, and he had to expand his cable TV access on his return home so he could keep up with his local Belgium team.  There are many cultural festivals; some last up to four days and include songs and costumes   

Bisous, kiss on cheek greeting. University—it is less expensive than here, but more difficult. There is less homework, but the exams are much harder. The food is great—chocolate, Belgium fries, baguette...fries with sauce is his favorite meal. The government is a multi party system with regional differences and is confusing. 


Transformation - His trip got cut short by COVID; even so, the seven months were life changing. He learned a new language, met new people, and made life-long connections. He remains part of his host families. The cultural experience changes everything—greetings, food.  He looks at the world differently. He has changed his college major and future plans from health to global health. 

Micah thanked his host families, friends and Rotary. He now feels he is a global citizen. 

Q & A

After a demonstration of his prowess with the French language, Mary asked how long it took to learn. He responded that it took longer than he wanted. He took lessons to speed up the process. He appreciated everyone’s patience while he was learning. The language gets better right before you leave. He plans to continue honing his French. 

Ginger wanted to know what influenced him to participate in the exchange. He responded that it was a unique thing to do, to experience something new. It was a great opportunity to experience a new world view. When he met Caroline, she talked up Belgium and influenced him. Truly it was life changing for him.  

John complimented him on a good presentation and asked him to expand on coming back a different person. Micah responded that he has a strong desire to go back. His parents are tired of hearing French or comments about Belgium. It was a tough year, especially since his stay was cut short. He is excited to go to college in Oregon shortly. 

Kevin wanted to let Micah know that we are proud of him for representing us. 

Dianne wanted to know, as a mom, what changes Micah’s mom, Lisa, has noticed in him since returning. Lisa responded that he has changed in a number of wonderful ways. He has always been a reader, and he has expended his reading. He made sure to vote absentee while in Belgium. He is a mature citizen and now is a global citizen. Learning a new language expands the mind and allows for appreciating cultural differences. He has matured; he cooks more and keeps his room clean. He is a very independent young man. 


Mary thanked Micah for a great presentation and pointed out that this month’s Rotary Magazine features Youth Exchange. 

Paul had one last question, “What’s next?”  Micah responded that in ten days he heads to Eugene, Oregon. Eugene is on evacuation watch because of the fires. Paul suggested bringing a copy of this presentation with him. It could prove useful at college. 

Dianne complemented our international guests on their beautiful country, mentioning that Bruges is one of her favorite cities and how special the fresh cream chocolates in Brussels are, and thanked them for joining us. 

Club Meeting, September 10, 2020
Pledge of Allegiance and Inspiration Thought  Paul did the honors for both the flag salute and the inspiration thought. Standing in for Warren, Paul shared some timeless (thank you Stacy for that word) words from Abe Lincoln on power, getting along, honoring heroes and adapting. 
Guests Micah, our speaker, introduced Caroline’s Mom who is currently President of her Rotary Club in Belgium and Caroline's sister. He introduced his host family and his host Mom; Jade, last year’s exchange student from France; Lauren, last year’s exchange student from Brazil and her host parent; and Jane Hall from the Mill Valley Club. He also introduced his mom, Lisa Carey-Warner who is a former member of the Rotary Club of Half Moon Bay.
Paul Harris Award   Mary announced that Teresa Adam now has a new Paul Harris pin with four sapphires. Congratulations Teresa. 
John announced that Chief Delay responded to a lightening strike in Portola Estates. They had to go in on foot with water and tools to stop the fire from spreading. 

Mary advised that the fires came close to HMB, and that the high school was used an an evacuation center. The fire is now 84% contained. Santa Cruz college had to be evacuated. Rotary has helped fire victims. 

Kevin advised that the air quality is at 207 and recommended staying inside with windows closed. 


Our next meeting is a Club Assembly.