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Manhattan Beach Student Heads to Germany in Rotary Exchange

Aug 04, 2015 09:23PM ● By Mb News Staff

AJ Silverman is congratulated on being selected as a Rotary Exchange student by Manhattan Beach Rotary Club member and MB Mayor Mark Burton.

Thanks to a Rotary Exchange Program that began in 1929, in 2015, AJ Silverman is reaping the benefits of the club's international student exchange program.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, August 5), the 15-year old Mira Costa High School student boards a plane to Germany for a year-long adventure away from the comforts of home and established routines.

"This will be a new learning experience for me," AJ told DigMB, adding that he is also part of the Rotarian Jazz Fellowship and very amped up about playing jazz guitar in Germany.

AJ Silverman on guitar

"I've been playing guitar for about four or five years," he said, most recently taking private lessons from Mike Longacre of Mike's Guitar Shop. AJ plays electric and acoustic guitar and has a jazz box electric guitar, which produces acoustic quality.

"I've just loved guitar since I was a little kid," he told DigMB. "I've always been interested in it."

When he was smaller, AJ was given sound advice: He was told to wait to pick up and play a guitar until his hands were bigger... "So I could play better," he says.

In addition to his musical adventure, AJ will attend a German high school where he will have classes in German and English and stay on track with college prep work. He will stay with three different host families but remain at the same high school throughout.

He's looking forward to being immersed in the German language and has been learning the language ever since he was selected to go to Germany. That learning has come online and via a tutor at Savoir Faire in Redondo Beach.

It also hasn't hurt that his mom Angelika Silverman speaks fluent German. As a young child, AJ spent three or four summers visiting family in Germany. His relatives are located about four hours away from where AJ, who will be in northwestern Germany. He hopes to be able to visit them a bit but isn't sure how his time in Germany will go.

The Rotary program does include a trip around Germany and Europe, and AJ expects to go on trips his host families may take when he is staying with them. 

At Mira Costa, AJ has enjoyed playing football (he has practiced with the Costa squad all summer even though he isn't going to be here to play this season) and singing in the choir. AJ has sung in a school choir since elementary school and enjoys it. He plans to get back in choir at Costa when he returns.

As for football, he says there is a Club Football team nearby in Germany though he's not sure is he'll have time for it. But he's "definitely planning on joining a gym" to stay active.

He practiced with the Costa football squad "because I just like football. I like staying in shape. I have friends doing it."

The Rotary program asks its participants to have limited contact with anyone in the student's home country for three months, something AJ understands will push him and the other exchange students into getting into the groove of their new "home".

"I'm just really excited about learning the language, experiencing the culture and all the music," he said. "I'll gain new friends and meet new people. I'm excited to travel all over Europe."

AJ is just one of three students in Southern California chosen for the Rotary Exchange Program. "Students find out about the program through their Interact Club (Rotary in high schools), online, school counselors, or from friends/family who have participated," said Warren Bobrow, a Rotary Youth Exchange Chair. "Students apply and are interviewed/screened based on their desire and suitability to spend a year abroad. They get to identify their top three countries and we do our best to place them in one of them."

Germany was AJ's first choice though the Rotary Exhange Program offers 20 countries to choose from in Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia/New Zealand. 

Manhattan Beach Rotary usually hosts (has a student from another country at Mira Costa) or sponsors (sends a student to another country) every other year, said Bobrow. "We normally send and receive 3-6 students per year from the Los Angeles area. We could do more if we had more host families." 

This year, for the first time, MB Rotary is hosting a girl from Germany who will be in MB and attend Mira Costa while AJ is in Germany. 

"What makes the Rotary Exchange Program different from others is that we’re run by volunteers who are all screened, go through a background check, and receive training on working with youth, so the cost is significantly lower than other high school exchange programs," said Bobrow.

"Also, families are not paid to host students, so they genuinely want them in the home.

"Finally, Rotary has a structured program so that Rotary exchange students from all over the world who are staying in Southern California have a chance to meet and participate in community service projects. Rotary organizes skiing, surfing, and camping weekends, as well as a 31-day tour around the USA after school is out."

Applications for the 2016-2017 school year Rotary Exchange Program are available and due by Dec. 31, 2015. Contact Warren Bobrow at [email protected], or by calling (310) 670-4175.

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