This weekend, a party of five from Idaho will venture to South Korea to a large city called Jeonju as participants in the Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange. The group includes a young school teacher from Boise, a construction project manager from Boise, an interior decorator from Twin Falls who often works in the Wood River Valley, and Ketchum resident Craig Barry, the director of the Environmental Resource Center. The team leader is Francie Aguilar, a Wells Fargo branch manager from Nampa.
The team departs Boise Saturday, April 1, and will stay in Jeonju for a month. In return, a group from Korea will arrive in Idaho for a similar period of time. The two teams will overlap for two weeks at each end of the exchange program and in each country.
The program is a cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for professionals in the early years of their professional lives. Each year the program travels to a different host country. Team members experience the host country's institutions and ways of life, and observe their own vocations as practiced abroad, which in Barry's case is the environmental business.
The program also allows for the development of personal and professional relationships, and the exchange of ideas. Rotarians in the host area provide for meals, lodging and group travel within their district. Each of the teammates will be staying with different families. Otherwise, they'll be kept together most of the time, on their daily outings, Barry said.
Barry and his teammates began getting to know one another in December 2005. One of their objectives was to create a visual presentation, which they'll be showing to their hosts while in Korea.
"The presentation is on Idaho and who we are," Barry said as he showed off a draft version on his laptop computer. "It shows where we are, how dynamic a state it is, about tourism and our technology, the environment. It's to get them jazzed up."
Indeed, the photos in the team's presentation are stunning. They show Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, the Salmon and Snake rivers, wildflowers, wildlife, agriculture, points of interest and Idaho's many natural resources. Barry said they tried to encapsulate Idaho's history and the history of the West, including that of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery. Not an easy task, but by using just visuals the language barrier will not be as much of a hindrance. Barry said they'll be showing the presentation up to twice a day.
There are also personal photos of each team member, showing them with family and friends.
"We'll point out aspects such as how rural it is and how much of the state is actually public land. Idaho is slightly more than twice the size of South Korea," Barry said.
The area around Jeonju is rolling mountains and densely vegetated. "I think it's going to be a mix of traditional Korean culture with very high-tech," Barry said. "They're one, if not the most, wired cultures in the world. I'm really looking forward to it. Last year the group was going from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. They were exhausted. The biggest advice they gave us was to bring Power Bars so we can refuel on our own. The other advice was to request free time each day.
"My worst fear is that I'll be stuck in a karaoke bar at 2 a.m.," he added. "Another exiting thing is that we'll be maintaining a travel blog. We'll post pictures, text and video. People can see where we're going through the ERC site (www.ercsv.org), and then click on 'Trip to Korea.' People can keep track of the adventure. Another thing we'll do as part of the travel blog is identify a Korean charity to donate to as part of this venture. I'm sure there'll be some need that will arise that we can connect to Idahoans. It's a royal flush; a good time—certainly a surprise in my life—learn about communities and hopefully make a difference. I don't want to just go there and leave."
In turn, the Korean team of five will be led by a Rotarian from Jeonju, who is the CEO of a construction company there.
"They're selected on a competitive basis, so it's quite an honor," said Hailey resident Tom Smith, district chairman of the Group Study Exchange Program for the Rotary Foundation, Idaho District. The other team members are a policeman, a photojournalist who also teaches, a newspaper reporter, and a man who works for a credit union. They arrive in Idaho April 21 and leave May 21.
They will travel throughout our rotary district, which is all of Idaho with the exception of the Panhandle," Smith said. "They'll be in the valley during the Rotary District Conference in Sun Valley from May 19 to May 21. We match these people with their professions to shadow them. This year they will be hosted by the Hailey club, staying with Rotarians. It's an exciting program."
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