Coleman Cocalis
2013-14 Outbound to Russia

Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
School: Pompano Beach High School
Sponsor: District 6990, Florida
Host: District 2220
The Rotary Club of Cherepovets-Sheksna

Coleman's Bio

Здравствуйте во все из тех, кто читал эту, меня зовут Coleman Cocalis. That means: “Hello to all who read this, my name is Coleman Cocalis.” Almost one month ago I was informed by Mr. Todd Lary, my Rotary District Chair, that I would be going to be spending my junior year of high school in Russia. I had a gut feeling that I would get that news. I knew this because during my interview, Mr. Lary and the other Rotarians were questioning me quite a few times about Russia, how I’d react to not getting my other choices, and how they never sent anyone to Russia but really wanted to send someone there. The truth is, at the time Russia wasn't my first choice. But, after some time to think, a flame in me was rekindled which was a passionate interest in Russia I previously felt.

I am currently taking two college level or Advanced Placement (AP) courses and 5 honors classes at Pompano Beach High School, I’m the class treasurer, Interact Club treasurer, and Green Team (school garden care-takers) Project Manager. I've always wanted to travel and explore the world to learn as much as I can because the output is only as good as the input and I crave input. My interests include history, science (especially biology and human anatomy), and technology. I've played soccer for 10 years and I’m in the process of preparing for tryouts for the track team. For my career as an adult I’d love to improve the lives of the people of the world through science. My thoughts include finding new medicines such as neuro chemicals to prevent tumor growth or finding a way to control fusion through advanced means of plasma manipulation.

I've always been and always will be a history buff and to top that off, I've always been proud of the fact of my diverse background. My father’s family comes from England, Wales, Greece and Russia. When I was in Elementary School I learned all that I could about Greece and its history, and then in Middle School I did the same except with Russia. I read as many books, watched as many documentaries, and searched for information on the internet as I am very proud of my Russian heritage. To show the fruit of that labor, this year in my AP European History class my teacher was explaining to the class about how the Russians first used the “scorched earth policy” against Napoleon. To his surprise, I told him in great detail how Peter the Great successfully used Scorched Earth Policy against Charles XII of Sweden. Through the study of history I have learned much about the world and its various cultures but there is no experience like firsthand experience.

Physically I am tall and slightly skinny. I’m an outgoing, talkative, and curious young man who is dying to leave his familiar and even warm setting for a new, exciting and even cold setting. I've been hoping since 7th grade to go to Russia and this is my dream come true. I am extremely grateful to the Rotary Youth Exchange Program and the gracious host families who have given me this wonderful opportunity.

Coleman's Journals

October 15, 2013

As much as I anticipated and wondered about the year I would spend in Russia before I left, I would've never thought that time would fly by me so fast. After being in Russia for 7 or so weeks I can say without a doubt in my mind that when Bob White and Todd Lary asked me if I actually wanted to go to Russia, that I gave them the correct answer. Looking back, it was rather obvious that they would select me to go to Russia and I couldn't thank them enough for doing so.

From the very start, when I first stepped out of my airplane and into the St. Petersburg international airport, that my exchange experience was going to be very different from what most of the other exchange students will or have experienced. I went immediately to my 3 day long orientation, and meeting the other handful of exchange students in Russia. As I was the last student to depart from the orientation, I took a rather long train ride to my new and current home city, Cherepovets. Soon after arriving, I met my host family and host club. It took me a day to fully evaluate and truly realize that I'm here. For a year. "Well, I better start writing down names before I forget them" I thought to myself. And once again, my exchange is unique because, unlike the average exchange experience, all of the other exchange students in Russia, we are all at least 300 kilometers apart from each other. So I realized that I'm going to, for the most part, only be with an d communicate with the Russian people.

The first 2 days were ones of difficulty for me, but after that it's been smooth sailing, except for the expected bumps in the road. After the past week I realized that the "honeymoon" phase is over. Frankly speaking, I'm glad it is. For now I can experience and ride out the the hard times, which in my opinion, change the exchange student the most. Not only that but I also get to see the contrast between the two phases first hand. I love being in Russia, I love Russia, but most of all I love the Russian people.

And lastly, Rotary. Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.

March 26, 2014

I do know it has been a while since I did my last report but that is because I have been so busy. There's always something going on, like the many trips around Russia, doing many different activities with new people every week, hearing news that my host country is annexing land of another country, or going places with my host family. I have moved three times since my last journal and will move at least one more time. I have also switched classes, become a part of 3 different clubs, and gone on 4 trips with Rotary.

I have gone to Kirov, Yaroslavl, Rybinsk, and St. Petersburg (again). In Kirov, Rotary sent us, all the exchange students, to a camp which allowed us to get together and catch up, which is hard since everyone lives far apart from each other. It was a TV styled camp which no one actually wanted to go to, but everyone loved it because we got to be together. In Yaroslavl, my host family showed me the sites and I got to take in the beautiful landscape and culture. In Rybinsk, I stayed with the Rotary student there and he showed me his host city. And in St. Petersburg, another exchange student and I stayed in a hostel for a few days while we saw the many great cultural sites of the city, along with having a grand time. Rotary had a trip to my city and I got to be the guide to my friends, showing them Cherepovets. In a few days I will be going on another trip and a few days after I get back I shall go onto another. There will be many more trips and a lot more experiences along with them and I’m quite anxious until those days get close.

It came as a shock to hear that my country had annexed Crimea, and the resulting consequences that ensued due to this. I, as a diplomat, have not and shall not express my opinion on the matter. Nor have I said anything about the anti-homosexual laws. It’s difficult to be an exchange student in a country when that country does such things but it has been worth it. Only through being a diplomat between cultures have I truly gained the understanding of both American and Russian outlooks. I've grown to be more understanding, mature, and balanced; able to see two sides to every argument.

The experiences I've gained on my exchange are invaluable to me and I thank Rotary for blessing me with this once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. I can now say that it truly was once-in-a-lifetime and that it was the best thing to ever happen in my life, second only to being born. I just want to thank my friends and family for supporting me, Rotary for allowing me to go, but mostly my parents who've always been looking out for me, constantly trying to help and aid me in the quest of having the best life possible.