Experiencing different cultures can have a lasting impact on a young person's life. For former Rotary International Youth Exchange student Eva Minassian, Powell River has become like a second home.
Originally from France, Minassian came to Powell River at age 17. It was her first visit to Canada.
“It was over the year 2000/2001,” she said. “I was in grade 12 at Brooks [Secondary School] at the time. I had three host families: the Claxtons, the Makarewiczs and the McGarveys.”
Minassian has stayed in close contact with all the families, as well as Charlie and Ingrid Gatt, who hosted her for a few weeks at the end of her exchange. Over the last 19 years, she has returned to town three times.
“I’m in love with Powell River,” she said. “I travel a lot. I live my life on the road, and somehow I always have Powell River on my mind. Whenever I can come back physically it’s fantastic and I’m even thinking of buying a place here.”
After high school, Minassian went to a fashion school in Paris and worked in the industry for a number of years. In 2009 she took a break. When she returned to work, it was as a costumer for the film and television industry.
“It’s really great because it allows me to travel for work,” she said. “I mostly work out of Prague and Budapest because that’s where a lot of series are shot these days.”
When her current holidays in Powell River end, Minassian will return to work on the third season of a television series called Riviera, filmed in the French resort town of St. Tropez.
Despite working in and visiting exotic locales, she said the friendliness and generosity she has experienced on the upper Sunshine Coast sets it apart.
“I was asked recently: ‘why do you come back to Powell River?’ and the truth is the people, the community,” she said. “The place is beautiful, but there are beautiful places everywhere and I see a lot of them because I travel so much, but the people, they bring me back here.”
As a child, Minassian said she dreamed of seeing the world.
“I wanted to go on exchange ever since I was old enough to know what travelling meant,” she said.
Her advice for youth who do not have quite as an adventurous nature is to take a chance and seize every opportunity to travel.
“Just go for it,” she added. “It’s okay if it doesn’t work out, you can always come home, but go see what’s out there.”
Exchange students aged 15 to 19 are sponsored by Rotary clubs in more than 100 countries. The aim is to give youth the opportunity to become global citizens by developing leadership skills, learning a new language and culture, and building friendships around the world.
Once the school year starts, Rotary Club of Powell River will be accepting applications for students interested in going on an exchange in 2020/2021.