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Rotary Club: Young professionals sought for program

BEMIDJI - Calling all young professionals: the Bemidji Rotary club is seeking full-time businesspeople from ages 25 - 40 to join in an international tradition as this year's Rotary Group Exchange Program (GSE) travels to Oulu, Finland.

The four-week trip will focus on improving cultural and interpersonal understanding as well as honing skills of leadership and diplomacy that will aid in future professional circumstances.

"All Rotaries across the world have a Group Study Exchange Program," said Larry Young, co-chair of Rotary District GSE, and past president of the Bemidji Rotary Club.

In his 27 years of service for the Rotary GSE, Young has seen the cause and effect of this occupational and cultural exchange opportunity.

"They get involved in the place's society," he said, adding that teams spend a large portion of their trip traveling among different cities, making presentations on their jobs and home countries.

Members stay with area Rotarian host families throughout the duration of the trip, visiting local companies, organizations and civic offices.

Last year's Rotary GSE sent a team to the jungles of Tasmania, while Tasmanian members spent a week exploring the Bemidji area.

There's a strong vocational component," said Gary Johnson, who served as GSE Team Leader for the Tasmanian trip.

Johnson and his team last year were able to witness the national broadband network that was being set up throughout Australia.

"It's what we do here at Paul Bunyan Communications," Johnson said. "We're able to exchange ideas with people in other countries that do what we do."

Team member applications can be found online at, and are due for submission by Aug. 15. Each of the 66 clubs in the Rotary District will select one applicant to be interviewed by the Rotary District GSE Committee in Duluth, MN. Interviews will commence on Oct. 19-20.

"I hope our community can be represented again," said Johnson, who began his 12-year relationship with Bemidji Rotary from a GSE program to Sweden.

Inspired by the Rotarian mission, Johnson became directly involved in the Bemidji Rotary Club soon after his Sweden trip.

"It really opened up a new world in terms of not just travel, but in Rotary," he said.

Along with an assembled team visiting a foreign country, a team from Rotary District 1400 - Northern Finland, is also gathered to stay four to five weeks in the area district spanning from Marathon, Ont., to Minot, N.D.

"There's lots of traveling, although team members do take personal time to call home or Skype with their families," Young said. "It's about maintaining global contact."

"It's an amazing program, Johnson stated, "It'd be great for someone locally to go to Finland."

Young added that the GSE component has been an integral part of Rotary for a long time.

"There are long, long lasting friendships," he said, "It promotes that sense of international understanding."