The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Youth exchange 'chance of a lifetime' for student


By the time Samantha Bartl’s Portales High School classmates begin their junior year on Aug. 11, she will be more than 5,000 miles away, exploring the Scandinavian country that gave the world Hans Christian Andersen and his magical fairy tales.

Samantha, 16, who spent much of her summer as a lifeguard at the Portales City Pool, will be diving into a fairy tale of her own as she flies to Copenhagen, Denmark, on Aug. 5 to begin a year as a Rotary youth exchange student.

It was no small decision to give up her junior year in Portales, but “I would be missing out on such a big experience if I didn’t go,” Samantha said.

Youth exchange applicants have to narrow their host country choices to three, and while Denmark happened to be Samantha’s top choice, “I would have honestly been overjoyed for whatever country I received,” she said, “because just going on this exchange is a chance of a lifetime.”

Samantha’s mother, Noelle Bartl, has been an active member of the Portales Rotary Club for 17 years, so the idea of participating in an international exchange has had plenty of simmering time.

“Once I learned about the exchange program it eventually became what I always wanted to do,” Samantha said. “Without even knowing it, I unearthed a need to go out into the world.”

More than 100 countries participate in the long-running Rotary youth exchange program. As the Bartl family’s older daughter heads abroad, they will, in turn, be the initial host family for an international student scheduled to arrive in Portales next week.

Rotary International’s guidelines restrict information on inbound students, but Noelle Bartl said the individual will be enrolled at Portales High School and will be available to present programs in eastern New Mexico.

The Bartl family looks forward to “a fun experience showing the student what life is like in Portales,” Noelle said. “It will also be a good distraction from missing our daughter while she is overseas.”

Samantha said homesickness is inevitable as she jets away from her family, her friends, and her beloved dog, but “I know that this exchange will be nothing short of amazing. It’s about what you do on your exchange, not what you could be missing back home.”

To learn more about Rotary Youth Exchange, line up a program with the inbound student, or host this or future inbound students (an ongoing need and a fantastic way to make lifelong international friends), contact Portales High School principal Mark Gormley — who is also the Portales Rotary Club Youth Exchange officer — at 575-356-7015.

As Samantha continues her departure countdown, “I’m trying to spend as much time with my family and closest friends as I can,” she said. “I will be out of the country before I know it so I’ve got to make the most of my time.”

Betty Williamson wonders if she can squeeze into one of Samantha’s suitcases. You may reach her at:


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