Five local students who recently returned from a cultural exchange experience in Snezhinsk, Russia, presented a slide show and talked of their travels at the monthly Livermore Rotary Club meeting in August.
Devin Rodriguez, Luke Lalor, Ian McNair, Akshay Prabhu and Dennis Dang -- all 2011 Livermore High School graduates -- thanked Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS) for a $5,000 gift to the Livermore Rotary Club that helped make their travel possible.
The students were members of the Rotary Interact Club at Livermore High. They communicated via Skype with Russian students online, and were invited to attend a 10-day camp (Camp Hilton) that helps students learn English. The Livermore students represent the first group of American youth to visit that part of Russia.
Lalor said they enjoyed working with young people who ranged in age from 7-16 and were "nothing but glad to see us, friendly and helpful."
"We got to leave our mark on the Russian students," McNair said about the the American cultural influence.
The travelers reported that the weather conditions were unusually hot and humid, but their days were full of various activities -- traditional sports, games, skits and plenty of conversation.
The second half of the trip consisted of a visit to Aurora, a small city known for its steel industry. The American students helped their Russian counterparts organize activities and answer many questions about how a rotary club works.
"One thing we noticed is that the Russians didn't sleep much," Lalor said about the late nights at the camp. This might be attributed to their high energy or flexible curfews, as well as the country's northern location. Sunrise occurs at about 5 a.m. and sunset at about 11 p.m.
The students also got a chance to hike in the nearby Ural Mountains, which form a boundary between Europe and Asia. At the Rotary Club meeting, they shared slides of picturesque landscapes and commented on the beauty of the land.
Throughout their travels, they spotted many statues and monuments of Russian leader Vladimir Lenin, reminders from earlier days of what was then the Soviet Union.
"We didn't expect it to be so emotional," Lalor said about their departure after bonding with so many people. "It's just enough time and then you're leaving," he said.