Posted by David Fels
Bonsoir Mesdames et Messieurs
 
Tonight is the last time we will welcome Marie to our meeting and on behalf of the club I have been given the job of saying goodbye.
 
When I think back to 12 months ago and this young girl arrived in the middle of the night at a country on the other side of the world meeting people she had never met before knowing that it would be a year before she returned to her home and family. I can only imagine the thoughts that were going through her head but suffice to say that once the formalities had been completed we put her in the car and off we went.
 
At this point I am going to use two analogies – the first is that the international exchange program is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you are going to get, and the second is that good things come in small packages. And luckily for our club this was a very, very good small package, Marie has proven to be an excellent ambassador for her country, the International exchange program and of course her family. The club has sponsored many students over the years and Marie has proven to be better than anything we could have wished for.
 
Her personality and attitude has meant that Marie has made the most of every opportunity, made lots of friends, gone to lots of places, seen lots of different things, and enjoyed her school experiences and the host families that have looked after her during her time here.
 
Anita and I were talking to Marie recently and she said that when she arrived there were 52x goals she wanted to achieve during her time here and that she had accomplished 48x of them. Apparently it’s not recommended to do this as it potentially detracts from the day to day experience, however this says a lot about the young girl that we have had in our company, the first is that if something works for you do it anyway even though you may have been told not to, and the second is that when she sets a goal she achieves it.
 
I believe that these two qualities will prove to be instrumental in her life and ensure that whatever path she chooses it will be right for her and that she will be successful at whatever that may be.
 
Recently we had the opportunity to meet her family when they visited NZ. This was a highlight of the year and answered some of the questions we may have had about how Marie came to be such a delightful person. It was obvious that they are a close family with traditional values placing high importance on integrity, reliability, trustworthiness, dependability, caring, responsibility and most importantly having a sense of humour. These are all the qualities that we have seen and more in Marie through the year that she has been here.
 
Marie has fitted in to whatever situation she has found herself in, making the most of her year and enjoying everything that NZ has to offer. She has traversed the country from top to bottom discovering the different opportunities, experiences and cultures that are on offer, working on her English all the time, communicating with that delightful French accent making sure that everyone has to listen carefully or they won’t know what she is saying.
 
When our club hosts an international exchange student we always see a metamorphosis, starting with an apprehensive, expectant, sometimes timid young person that isn’t quite sure what is going to happen next becoming a mature, independent, positive, confident young adult at the end of the year and Marie has not deviated from that edict. We also wonder what their parents will think when the person that returns is so different to the one that left, but we know that Marie will still be Marie, just a slightly more confident mature version.
 
Marie it has been a pleasure and an honour to be your councillor this year, you have made a friend of every member of our club and everyone agrees that without doubt you are one of our most loved exchange students and we hope that you will keep in touch so that we can follow you as you go through life.
 
I have a couple of parting gifts to give you from the club and I would like you to accept them now and I will explain why they were chosen.
 
The first is a specially designed shirt that will forever be a symbol of your two homes, and also remember that the French Rugby shirt is a reminder that you need to keep working to overcome the challenging obstacles in life (such as the best rugby team in the world), but if you feel the need you can always swap over to support the All Blacks.
 
The second is a Pounamu necklace designed with a Koru entwined within a Maori twist.
 
The Maori twist symbolises the path of life which takes many twists and turns but carries on regardless. It is the Maori Eternity Symbol and is also considered to be the symbol of undying love between two people.
The Koru represents peace, tranquillity, personal growth, positive change and awakening.
 
These are the qualities that we wish you as you return home to continue your studies and begin the rest of your life.
 
You make the world a better place with your presence, and we are better for having known you.
 
We offer the very best wishes to your family and are confident that as you grow you will continue to make the most of your opportunities and flourish, and please remember that you have our 100% support in whatever you do, and if there is anything that we can do to help you only need to ask.
 
AU REVOIR, BONNE CHANCE, A BIENTOT.
 
TU VAS NOUS MANQUER.
(We will miss you.)
 
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