Keeping up with the 2014 alums: Madison Lykken
Rotary exchange student
March 26, 2015
Editor Note: This is part- four of a four -part series on what last year’s graduates have been working on their first year away from OHS. While most high school seniors were getting ready for their next year at the college of their choice, 2014 Owatonna High School graduate Madison Lykken was preparing for something much different. She, along with other 2014 graduates Nick Beck and Luke Owens, was selected to participate in the Rotary Youth Exchange for the 2014-2015 year, promoting the United States as an ambassador in Kimberley, South Africa. She stays with four host families and attends high school. Although she has met other exchange students, Madison is currently the only exchange student staying in Kimberley, South Africa. Former OHS foreign exchange student Tlotlo Lesetedi lives in Kimberley as well. This upcoming summer OHS will be sending four more students through the program. Rotary offers opportunities for students that would otherwise never get the chance.
When people here in the heartland of the Midwest think of Africa, not many know what to think. “The biggest difference is probably the languages that I am surrounded by, the main being Afrikaans,” said Lykken. Afrikaans is one of the official languages of South Africa, and is also spoken around the world. “It is a very difficult language, but I can understand what people are saying in conversation. Speaking it is quite a challenge,” said Lykken. Language barriers are hard to overcome most of the time, especially with languages that are uncommon in the United States.
When not in school, youth exchange members travel with other foreign exchange members from all around the world. “The best thing that I have done would probably be going on the Cape Tour for two weeks with other exchange students from around the world who are also staying in South Africa. It was a wonderful way to meet other people being I am the only exchange student currently in South Africa,” said Lykken. Foreign exchange students can also look forward to other travels in South Africa with their host families along with other people from places like Germany, Switzerland, and Brazil. While she loves South Africa, Madison still calls Owatonna home. When she gets back in early July, Lykken says, “I will definitely grab some Blast ice cream and visit with my family and friends that I have not seen for a year.” The future is also bright for her college plans. “I have also been accepted to MSU, Moorhead for Graphic Design as well, so that will be another wonderful thing to look forward to once I arrive back home,” she said. As for more travelling, Lykken says that she and her parents will travel back to South Africa to meet her host families and host country in person in the next few years. Plans for after high school can be daunting for anyone, whether they are going to college, work, or another country. “Becoming an exchange student was honestly the very best decision I have ever made; I would greatly encourage everyone to go for it and I would not trade my exchange student experiences for anything,” said Lykken.“It really is not a year in a life, it is a life in a year,” she says. For Madison, Rotary Youth Exchange has opened up many doors, and continues to give more students the chance to travel. Whatever happens to Madison in the future, she will hold onto this year in her memories forever.