Group Study Exchange

The Group Study Exchange (GSE) Program of The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International has now ceased. It was an educational Exchange program which aimed to promote international understanding through person-to-person contact. The programme provided for teams of professional men and women to exchange vocational visits between paired Rotary Districts in different countries.

Team members studied their vocations, cultures and ways of life in each other's countries, developed personal acquaintances and exchanged ideas. During the Exchange, GSE teams were expected to travel with a sense of mission, sharing personal knowledge of their own country with those they met and observing the customs, vocations and lifestyles of the country they were visiting

Reciprocity was the key to GSE. Each of the paired Districts sent and received a team at designated times, usually during the same one-year period (between 1 July and 30 June) and coinciding where possible with each District's Annual Conference. Each District first selected a team of outstanding people who represented a cross-section of the District's businesses and professions. The team then travelled to a District in another country for a study programme of about four weeks. Districts may on occasions have selected single-vocation teams.

While visiting the paired District, each team followed a carefully planned itinerary. Team members may also have  visited government and legal institutions, schools and colleges, and historical and scenic points of interest. They observed social practices and were welcome to participate in religious, cultural and recreational activities. Each team member was also required to spend at least five days studying his or her profession or related activities in the host district. Wherever possible, accommodation was in local homes thus allowing team members to personally experience family lifestyles in their host countries.

This program has now been replaced by Vocational Training Teams with the team focused on a specific vocation.


Corowa Rotary Club has sponsored three members of GSE Teams send overseas.

Those members were:

 - 1974 - James Curtis-Smith - USA

 - 2002 - Tamara Feehan - Brazil

 - 2008 - Stephen Apps - Finland/Estonia

May 2008 -  Finland/Estonia


Team Members were:


Rtn Clive Faul (RC of Wodonga West)   Team Leader

Stephen Apps (RC of Corowa)               Secondary Art Teacher    Melanie Walker (RC of Benalla)              Police Woman

Diane Bloom (RC of Pascoe Vale)          Police Woman

Julie McPhee (RC of Mooroopna)           H.R. Advisor

Kara de Lucey (RC of Alexandra)            H.R. Manager



Stephen gave a wonderful power point production of his trip to Finland and Estonia. He proclaimed it to be the best time of his life, and he wished to thank the Corowa Rotary Club for all their support.

The team visited 6—7 Rotary Clubs while away and were away for a month. They were about 3 weeks in Helsinki and environs, 2 days in Tallinn, Estonia and 3 days in Tartu Toome, Estonia.

The GSE team consisted of 2 police women – Melanie Walker from Benalla and Diane Bloom from Pascoe Vale, 2 human resource managers – Juliue McPhee from Mooroopna and Kara de Lucey from Alexandra, Stephen (a secondary art teacher) and Rtn Clive Faul (Wodonga West) was the Team leader.

After traveling for 33 hours (flying, airports and sitting on the tarmac @ Heathrow in a plane), they finally arrived in Helsinki, which was very beautiful with falling snow. The team visited many churches, manor houses, ski fields, a recycling centre, the Finnish Parliament House, a famous area called Suomenlinna which was a sea fortress and held off the Russians in a revolution, the Nokia factory, a sanitary company, farms, museums and the girls of the Team even tried a dip in an icy lake!! (Not Stephen!!) They tried Reindeer soup and bear meat (which he said was stringy and beefy) and they were taken for a walk in the Finnish forest—2 hours in and 3 hours out!


Stephen found that there is a huge emphasis on education in Finland, and everyone strives to attain the highest level of education they can—whether academic or polytechnic (skilled workers). The children have a greater path through to tertiary level, and school lunches are provided to all free of charge. Formal education starts at 7 years, although there are preschool centres. Stephen was able to absorb some ideas for teaching and presentation to incorporate into his own classes.

Most Fins speak 3 languages—Finnish, Swedish and English. Although the Team had to learn a few basic phrases to get by (“thank you very much”), most people they met were able to converse in English.

The Team took a ‘ferry’ to Estonia - it was actually the size of a cruise ship. Whilst in Estonia, the Team travelled to the Russian border where there was 40 km column of trucks waiting to cross the border. Here they almost fell foul of the Border patrol! Also they visited an Estonian Museum, Tallinn Old Town – which included a glass factory & cobbled market square - and went to the top of an Estonian mountain.

Stephen felt one of the highlights of his trip was attending an ice hockey game. Needless to say, there were many more, including going to a naval base in the company of a 5-star surgeon general and taking a ride on a naval boat!! And what about seeing some original Monet art works??

Stephen was most grateful to Rotary because it gave entry to many places the normal tourist can’t access. Staying in the homes of Rotarians was a wonderful insight into the life and culture of the country, and visiting schools and classrooms gave him insight into the education system.


Stephen finished his talk by thanking Corowa Rotary once again for its support and encouragement. He then presented President John with banners from the following Rotary Clubs: Tallin International RC, Estonia; Tartu Toome RC, Estonia; Eira RC, Finland; Helsinki RC, Finland; and Borga Porvoo Soumi RC, Finland.

GSE team leaving Melbourne

In the Finnish forest

Tempting fate at the

Russian border

Art School Helsinki

Stephen at the Ice Hockey Stadium

Finnish lake

Corowa Rotary Club has hosted a number of visiting GSE Teams over the years and these have been:

1988 Argentina
1992 Canada
1994 Brazil
1996 Pakistan
 1997  Massachusetts - Team Leader Robert George

March 2003 - District 2380, Sweden


Team Members were:


Dan Stille                  Team Leader

Carina Anderson      Police Service

Karl Tribatt                Manufacturing

Nina Wallgren           Education

Per Eklund                Purchasing

March 2008 - District 2380 - Finland/Estonia


Team Members were:


Pekka                   Team Leader

Pille                       Marketing Project Manager

Catherine              Skin Cancer Nurse

Suvi                       Secondary School Teacher

Mihkel                   Supply Chain Manager

Mikko                    Banking

March 2009 - District 5610 South Dakota, USA


Team Members were:


Chris Paustian           Team Leader

Ryan Jensen              Banking Officer

Kim Anderson             Occupational Therapist

Jacqui Scoular            Math Teacher

Marcy Martinson         Operations Manager

March 2010 - District 6000 Iowa, USA


Team Members were:


Rita Pearce                       Team Leader

Julie Plollock                     International Program University of Iowa

Cara George                     Insurance Supervisor

Kyla Kiester                       Senior Operations Manager

Natasha Wilson-Boland     International Program University of Iowa