Sixteen-year-old French exchange student Sidonie Sourice has experienced eight months in Australia that has been filled with many exhilarating highs.
Unfortunately for Sidonie, her planned 12 months stay was shortened to just eight months with the Covid-19 pandemic hastening her departure resulting in her return home to France last Thursday night.
The Rotary exchange student had travelled almost 17,000 kilometres from Paris to Bundaberg in July last year to be hosted by the Rotary Club of Childers during her stay.
Sidonie was a little over 15 and a half when she arrived in Childers.
Under the French education system, she had already completed Year 12 and was looking to commence university studies following her planned return home in June.
The rules of the exchange required that she still attend school in Australia, so she dutifully enrolled in the last half of Year 11 and the initial half of Year 12 at local high schools.
Sidonie attended Isis State High and Bundaberg State High Schools during her stay.
One of her highlights was celebrating her 16th birthday.
“I had a party organised by my host mum Liz Bunn and received some wonderful gifts including a lovely locket from Childers Rotarian Don Grant.
“The locket had a clear cover and it held several gold flakes that Don had actually found while panning for gold in the Palmer River in northern Australia. It’s very special.”
Sidonie said the Childers Rotarians had been very kind and had taken her to many local, State and interstate attractions.
“There were great things to see around the Bundaberg Region like Snakes Downunder and Flying High Bird Sanctuary. Australia Zoo, Fraser Island and Sydney were all wonderful experiences.
Childers Rotarian Wayne Heidrich who hosted her for a brief stay said Sidonie was obsessed with wanting to speak like an Aussie.
“I don’t know how many times she asked me if she had lost her accent. Even after months here it was still as thick as syrup.”
He said it was a big challenge for a young woman to be away from family for that extended period but with modern communications it was possible to maintain the required contact with her family.”
Sidonie said her greatest disappointment in returning home early was the cancellation of the Rotary Safari to be held in May.
“It is a three-week event involving exchange students from all over the country providing the opportunity to travel together and see some wonderful parts of Australia.”
District 9570 Youth Exchange Program Chair Heather Suggest said the District had maintained good communication with Sidonie’s District in France.
“Ultimately, it was decided that the best place for Sidonie was at home with her family. She did not travel until we were all completely satisfied that she would have a safe and uninterrupted flight home.”
Several members of Childers Rotary, observing the social distancing rules, farewelled Sidonie on Thursday as she left to catch her flight from Hervey Bay.
Sidonie is now safely back at home in France, which is a relief for all those who got to know her while she was here in the region.
- Related stories: Renae stays upbeat as virus disrupts Germany trip