Rising sun beckons teen

By Geoff Lee

February 14, 2018 1:32 PM

It was shock and awe for Holy Rosary High School student Abigail Jurgens after learning the Rotary Club of Lloydminster and the Border City Rotary were sending her to Japan as a Youth Exchange Student in August. She was asked by Rotarian Peter Parkinson to select one of three envelopes bearing the flag of her destination country, not knowing all three depicted the flag of Japan. GEOFF LEE LSS PHOTO

Grade 10 Holy Rosary High School student Abigail Jurgens could have ran out of the Rotary Club of Lloydminster lunch on Monday yelling Ee!
That’s close to meaning “Oh my God” in Japanese, which sums up her reaction to learning she will be heading to Japan this year as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student.
In English she exclaimed, “I’m just insanely excited,” with Japan being her first country of choice over Germany and Italy.
The 15 year old was asked to chose and open one of three envelopes containing a picture of the flag of the country she would be visiting, not knowing all three depicted the flag of Japan.
“I had no idea whether it was going to be Japan,” she said.
“I just wanted to go there so bad, and I’m just like out of my mind with excitement.”
Her mom Joyce, who gave her daughter a congratulatory hug, was just as surprised as everyone else who was not in on the envelope selection stunt.
“I did not know, nobody told me, so I was as shocked as Abigail was,” she said, noting Abigail is the oldest of her two daughters and two sons.
“I’m super excited—she really wanted Japan, so we’re pretty excited.”
The year-long learning trip will be funded by the Rotary Club of Lloydminster and the Border City Rotary club, which Joyce finds amazing.
“I didn’t know a lot about Rotary before this—it seems like a really amazing organization and we’re just really excited and blessed to have the Rotary opportunity,” she said.
Abigail said she just thinks Japan is a great place and she likes the people and the food.
“I’m super excited to be able to go there and learn how to speak Japanese, to go to school and to wear a kimono,” she said.
Her immediate plan she said was to tell everyone the news.
A trip she made to Vietnam last summer with her dad and her younger sister helped to stoke her interest in travelling and learning about new cultures.
She says they spent a month there just backpacking around and eating the food.
“Ever since then I’ve been thinking about where to go next and as soon as I learned about the Rotary program I jumped right on it,” she said.
As for where she will be going to school in Japan, that decision has yet to be made, but she expects it will be a small town.
“I’ll go to school and I’ll stay with three or four different host families,” she explained.
Abigail will be flying to Japan on her own, but her mom is confident she can handle being independent.
“I am very excited; she’s travelled before and we’re confident in her ability to do well there; we’re really excited for her.”
Joyce is also comforted knowing Lloydminster Rotarian Bob Little is Abigail’s outbound youth exchange counsellor in Canada to help get her prepared.
“They also assign her an inbound counsellor in Japan, so there is somebody who is going to be in charge of her when she gets there—those are her two checkpoints.” she said.
Abigail will be 16 before she leaves at the end of August with lots of tasks for her to do before then.
“I, of course, have to start learning the language,” she said.
“There’s a couple of training weekends where I’m going to go to Edmonton and learn more information about the program and safety things.
“I will have to pack when it gets closer to the date, so those are all the things I have to do.”

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