Riko is moving to Slovakia for a year

Gloucester High School student Riko Fitzgerald will be spending 2020 in Slovakia. Photo Anne Keen
Gloucester High School student Riko Fitzgerald will be spending 2020 in Slovakia. Photo Anne Keen

Gloucester's Riko Fitzgerald is taking on a new adventure spending 12 months in Slovakia, after being inspired by the recent Rotary Youth Exchange student, Angy Marradi, who left her Italian home to spend 12 months in Gloucester.

"I saw how much fun she was having and what a great experience it was for her," Riko said.

So in July, she put her name down for next year with her top three picks of places to go being, Czechia (Czech Republic), Denmark and Finland.

"I wanted to go somewhere different than where most people go," Riko said. "My dad really liked the idea of the Czech Republic, so I put it at the top of my list."

A short while later, she found out she was going to Slovakia. Although it's not what she originally thought, being two separate countries, but in the world of Rotary, they're still inter-linked. But it's no matter, as Slovakia still boosts the medieval architecture that attracted the Fitzgeralds to Czechia in the first place.

Admitting that she's "scared" and "worried" about taking off on January 17, 2020 for 12 months to a country she's never been nor speaks the language of, she's still looking forward to the adventure.

"It's not the first time I've been to a country where English isn't the main language," Riko said. As her mother, Kyoko was from Japan, Riko has not only been there, but has also learned the language.

"I'm confident I'll pick up the language quickly," she smiled.

But it's not just learning a new language that made this decision to spend a year overseas a big deal for Riko, it also means she'll not be graduating with the class she has spent most of her life with. Due to the different school year in the northern hemisphere, Riko will be required to pick up at Gloucester High School where she left off, which will be term two of her Higher School Certificate (HSC) year.

Although it's sad, she said she it's an experience she can't pass up.

"There are more pros and cons. I know I'll miss out on the bonding time with my year as they journey through the HSC together, but the chance to experience a new cultural is well worth it."

Now all she has to do is work on raising the money to help cover the minimum cost of $8,300. Thankfully, the Rotary Club of Gloucester, who has helped organise the exchange for her, is also supporting her with a couple upcoming fundraisers.

The first is a Christmas themed trivia night on Friday, December 13 from 7.30pm at the Gloucester Bowling Club. Tickets cost $10 per adult, $5 per child or $20 for a family of four and can be purchased at Bowe and Lidbury or Gloucester Pharmacy.

The following day, Saturday December 14, Rotary will be holding a car boot sale in the IGA parking lot.

All proceeds will be going toward Riko's big adventure. For more information about the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, visit www.ryea.org.au/