Lions help form new friends

Ilgim Cengiz, Julianna Miller and Manom Bax were in Nanango for about three weeks.
Ilgim Cengiz, Julianna Miller and Manom Bax were in Nanango for about three weeks. Tobi Loftus

NANANGO residents welcomed three girls from three different countries, here on a month-long exchange, into their town at a barbecue on Sunday.

The girls were staying with local couple Wendy and Scott Mathews as part of the Lions Youth Exchange program.

Over their three weeks in Nanango the girls visited the Bunya Mountains, the Gold Coast, went go-karting and spent several days in Nanango State High School.

Ilgim Cengiz grew up in a seaside town near the city of Bursa in Turkey.

The 17-year-old Year 11 student, who likes to play volleyball and taekwondo, said she wanted to take part in the exchange as it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"You can't find this opportunity when you go on holiday,” Ilgim said.

"You can't really experience the culture or live the lifestyle.

"Living with the host family, we can see everything and learn the culture.”

She said the biggest difference she noticed was how people treat meals here.

"Meals are the most important thing for Turkish people,” she said.

"For the dinner, there are lots of desserts, everyone sits together for hours.

"When we have guests in our home, we always have a kiss. Here, everyone just says hi.”

Ilgim said the school day was also longer, cramming in nine lessons.

"I think our lessons in Turkey are harder, it can be very hard,” she said.

"We don't chose our lessons, we have to take everything.

"Our school is only three buildings and we have a special cafeteria for lunch and breakfast.”

Manom Bax recently graduated from high school and is set to start business school in September.

Before starting that new chapter of her life, after years of pressure from her father, the 17-year-old decided to leave her small village in the south of the Netherlands and come to Nanango for a month with the Lions Youth Exchange.

"My father is involved in Lions back home,” Manom said.

"He told me when I was 15, he said you have to go, you have to go, I said okay.

"This year I could finally go and I'm glad I did.”

She said her small village in the Netherlands was similar in some ways to Nanango, but there were differences.

"Everyone has a lot of space here, but in the Netherlands every space is used,” she said.

"Here, the grass is just growing and nobody cares about it. That is fun to see.”

Julianna Miller, who is about to enter her final year of school, arrived in Nanango on exchange from a small town in West Virginia, USA.

"It was on our morning announcements at school, no one ever listens to the morning announcements except for me,” the 17-year-old said.

"The culture is pretty much the same as West Virginia, though there are small differences.”

She said the biggest difference she noticed was within the schooling system, where more subjects were offered in the States.

"At home the school is just one building, we have a cafeteria, no one pays for lunch, here you have to pay for lunch,” she said.

"It's expensive, like $4.”

Julianna said the girls, who were complete strangers before they spent the past few weeks together, had formed a special bond.

"We've been living together, using the same bathroom, all doing our hair at the same time,” she said.

"We're at the point now where we sing in the car together. We've come pretty far along.

"It's like we're sisters now. I feel like I'm home.”

Ilgim and Manom said they both felt similar.

"I feel I have another family in Australia now,” Ilgim said.

"I have sisters now as well. I feel like I'm home here.”

Topics:  lions youth exchange nanango lions club turkey united states of america

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