Revealing Iceland

EHS exchange student returns with stories for Essex Rotarians

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By Jason Starr
The Essex Reporter

On the list of possible locations for a year abroad as a foreign exchange student from Essex High School, Katie Trahan was most captivated by Iceland.

At last week’s Essex Rotary Club meeting, she explained the allure of the North Atlantic island country less than a month after returning. She spent her entire senior year there — sponsored by the Rotary International Youth Exchange program — returning two days before EHS graduation.

“It kind of intrigued me,” she said. “It was somewhere most people don’t know much about.”

Essex Rotarians can now claim insight into the place after Trahan’s 40-minute presentation. Her talk included traveling anecdotes, photographs of Iceland’s capital city — Reykjavik — and some of the country’s geologic highlights, and a video of Trahan and her travel companions.

Katie Trahan spoke to the Essex Rotary Club last week about her experience as a Rotary-sponsored exchange student in Iceland. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Katie Trahan spoke to the Essex Rotary Club last week about her experience as a Rotary-sponsored exchange student in Iceland.
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

“She is a great representative of our state and our club, and she did everything we asked and more, keeping us up to date with her blogs and Facebook posts,” Rotarian Amy Jackman said.

Among the facts Trahan shared about Iceland: Parents leave their babies in carriages unattended along the streets of the capital city while dining in the summer! And, about 90 percent of the country’s electricity comes from geothermal sources. Another surprise? “The weather actually isn’t that bad,” Trahan said. “It never really got below zero.”

One-third of the country’s population lives in Reykjavik. That’s where Trahan stayed with two host families of whom she spoke glowingly, and where she attended school, riding a bus 30 minutes each way to get there.

She learned to speak Icelandic, ate local delicacies like fermented shark and cow tongue, and studied social science. She also saw the northern lights.

“They were absolutely magnificent,” she said. “Pictures can’t really do them justice. It’s definitely something you want to see before you die.”

When school let out in the spring, Trahan took a whirlwind tour of Europe with about 100 other exchange students, visiting seven countries in 18 days.

“It really changes you as a person,” she said of the experience. “You grow more mature and you learn about different cultures.”

The Essex Rotary Club sponsors one student a year on an exchange from either Essex High School or Mount Mansfield High School. The club also hosts a student from another country.

“It’s about Rotary’s ideals of learning about other cultures and building peace and understanding around the world,” Jackman said.