Debra Delaposta

Debra Delaposta

KEYSER, W.Va. - The Italian Group Study Exchange between local Rotary District 7350 and District 2520 in Italy has been concluded for 2005/2006.

Debra Delaposta of the Altoona, Pa., club, Rotary team leader for the team that returned after a month in Italy in May, addressed the Keyser Rotary Club Thursday with a brief video and slide presentation on the team's visit.

During their stay in the Lombard region of northern Italy the four team members and Delaposta met members of the district's 55 Rotary clubs at 10 Interclub meetings.

She said the district has divided its clubs into groups similar to what the local district is doing with the assistant district governor program to allow for more participation from smaller Rotary clubs.

"We only attended one club meeting and it was different from anything I've ever seen in Rotary," she said, explaining that the speaker addressed the club on nuclear energy and when he concluded his presentation the club followed the program with a debate that lasted for several hours. "We started about 8 p.m. and didn't get out until after midnight."

She said that the team's month-long schedule was extremely heavy, often meeting with three different Rotary groups in a day.

"We were lodged in motels for most of the trip, staying in Rotarian homes only twice," Delaposta said.

The exception was a stay with the leader of the Italian team that visited the local area in April 2005 and one night with one of the team members that Delaposta had hosted here.

She said the exchange, which is intended to include both cultural and professional opportunities, focused primarily on the cultural aspects of the country.

"Our professional time was spent together as a group and made for interesting discussions among the team members," she said.

Delaposta said the team was able to visit about 27 churches, 21 museums, a shoe factory and museum, a cheese factory, meet a number of mayors and the Perfecto, an official appointed by the government in Rome. They also visited a monastery at Certosa and Cremona where violins are made, among many other cities and towns of that region of Italy.

"We were able to see a graduation which is very different from ours," she said, noting the candidate appeared before a panel and was questioned orally, then asked to leave before returning to hear the decision.

There was lots of food and wine and shopping in Milan. "I like wine so that was good but I couldn't afford the shopping," she said.

Their stay also included several local holidays, including Easter and Liberation Day. Deleposta said Liberation Day is the celebrated as the time during World War II when the American's liberated the country from Germany occupation. "They really like Americans because of that," she said.

She said that during their first two weeks, primarily spent in the cities, there were people who spoke English but after they got out into the countryside, virtually no one spoke English.

Delaposta had spent a year learning Italian prior to the trip and she said by the time they returned she and another team member, who is originally from Mexico, had become fairly fluent. The others, however, were frustrated with their lack of language skills.

She explained the process by which the team was selected at the district level and the six months of training, which included some language coaching.

"You really need to learn some of the language before you go on an exchange," she said, indicating she hopes to push for more training in that area.

Delaposta will be joining the district selection committee that will be reviewing applications for the upcoming exchange with Germany in 2007.

She encouraged Rotarians to apply for exchange leadership and to promote the exchange to potential team members.

"It is funded entirely by the Rotary Foundation," she said, pointing out that while it is not a vacation it is a once in a lifetime experience for young professionals age 25 to 40.

Applications for the Group Study Exchange Program are available on the Rotary District No. 7350 Web site. The deadline to apply is Aug. 25.

Both the incoming and outgoing team exchange will take place in April/May 2007. The Italian exchange took place with the incoming team in 2005 and the outgoing team in 2006.

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