SPENDING a year in Japan on a Rotary Youth Exchange opened up a whole new world for Emma Forster and she is eternally grateful to Rotary for the opportunity.
Ms Forster will share her exchange experiences - including learning to eat, sleep, speak and bathe Japanese-style - at the upcoming Rotary District 9500 Conference in Port Lincoln next month.
"I was 17 when I left Australia (in 1993) so I learnt independence over there," she said.
"This was pre-mobile phones, we were communicating with fax.
"There was no Facebook so I really had to immerse myself into the culture."
A new culture and a new language were part of the deal for the then 17-year-old after her parents vetoed her preferred destination America in favour of a country with a different culture and a language other than English.
She said Japan was the ideal choice and in hindsight, Japanese was a very helpful language to learn considering Port Lincoln's links to Japan through the tuna industry.
"I'm so grateful to my parents for exposing me to that opportunity and I can't sing the praises high enough of the Rotary exchange program," Ms Forster said.
"I'd like to encourage any young boys or girls to enrol to be a Rotary exchange student because you learn so much and not only that, it gives you a greater appreciation for your home town.
"You are an ambassador for your town, your state and your country.
"You don't have to speak the language; when I left I knew six words and my host family didn't speak English."
Now working in the tourism industry, Ms Forster is looking forward to the benefits the Rotary conference will bring to Port Lincoln both during the four-day conference and in the future.
More than 350 people are expected to visit Port Lincoln for the event.
"It's a great thing for Port Lincoln, a lot of the delegates aren't just coming for the conference, they are making a holiday of it and will be tasting our amazing seafood, going on some of the fantastic tours we have to offer in Port Lincoln and hopefully taking the message about Port Lincoln and Eyre Peninsula back home with them."
Ms Forster is one of two local guest speakers on the conference program, along with sailor and real estate agent Steve Kemp.
Rotary district governor John Campbell said he was looking forward to welcoming Eyre Peninsula guests to hear some of the speakers, such as keynote speakers Keith Abraham, a business consultant for global companies like Toyota, Lexus, Toshiba and NAB, and London bombing victim and 2015 South Australian of the Year Gill Hicks whose sessions will be open to the public.
"We invite people from the Eyre Peninsula to register for either of our two keynote speakers but we also invite non-Rotarians to register for the entire conference," Mr Campbell said.
"How often are international or national speakers available to listen to that could change your life?"
The conference will be held at the Nautilus Theatre from March 26 to 29.
For more information about the speakers or to book to attend visit www.rotary9500in2015.com.au