By Tara Nicoll
Mt. Pleasant, Pa., USA
Had it not been for my Rotary Youth Exchange to Munich, Germany, in 1994-95, I am positive that I would not be where I am now: Living and pursuing a career in global business development at an innovative German medtech startup. I work with another former Rotary Youth Exchange student, Eva, who happens to be my best friend from my exchange year.
The later challenges of working life in Japan and Argentina would have been impossible without the experience of being thrown into strange daily life situations with just a dictionary and persistence.
Munich, Germany → Morgantown, W.Va., USA → Lüneburg, Germany
Through first-hand insight from Marianne, my German host mom, I learned what is considered to be “normal” or ”polite” in daily life situations, and this made the adjustment to German life easier. Without this experience I would not have gained these valuable perspectives that I constantly use to this day. When I approach a situation now, I evaluate and consider how it is perceived from the North American, German, Japanese, and Argentinean perspective. This cultural interpretation and edge is because of Rotary.
My entire future planning was changed and adapted based on my exchange year. My initial major of Audiology, didn’t include a possibility to study abroad. Therefore, I changed it to International Studies, which took me to back to Lüneburg, Germany.
Morgantown, W.Va., USA → Kitakyushu, Japan→Munich, Germany→ Buenos Aires, Argentina
When I returned to West Virginia University, my Japanese professor approached me to apply to the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) Program. I always wanted to visit Japan, and my friend, Yuka, whom my hometown hosted in 1993, was in Kyoto. Finally a reunion! I applied, was accepted, and moved to Kitakyushu, Japan. The two years living and working in Japan were extremely challenging. Nevertheless, it would have been a lot worse without my exchange year experience to draw from. I am thankful for the opportunity to discover another culture as well as my love of teaching.
When I decided to move back to Munich, it was Eva and Marianne, who helped me build my life here. Initially, I taught English. Then I moved into Intellectual Property (IP), where as a paralegal, I learned the patents and trademarks business. This led to an Argentinean law firm which relied on my IP, business, and international skills. They also needed me to go and work in their offices in Argentina and Brazil. However, after four years at this firm, it was time for a change and a new challenge.
Eva & Mecuris → Medtech Start Up
It was through Rotary that I met Eva, my oldest German childhood friend and now colleague. Both of us were Rotary Youth Exchange students. She was studying in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1993-94 and we met at the Rotary In-Outbound weekend in Munich. We discovered we were both attending the same Gymnasium and have been friends since September 1994. Almost 25 years later to the day, we became work colleagues at Mecuris, which enriches amputees’ lives by producing custom-made, industrially-3D-printed prosthetics and orthotics. Our long term goal is to export our German engineering to print these aides in the U.S. and other countries around the world.
I’ve come full circle. Munich is on its way back to Mt. Pleasant and I’m coming back home, or at least Mecuris’ feet are.