In 2008, I happened to see a newspaper ad promoting Group Study Exchange through Rotary. Intrigued, I applied for the program never suspecting the many ways this simple action would impact my life.
GSE team to Switzerland
Vivek Khandelwal (left) and the 2009 Group Study Exchange team to Switzerland.

Dharmendra Gangrade, a Rotary member who had previously taken part in a Group Study Exchange, oversaw training me and other applicants. The path forward was full of twists and turns, but after a year as an alternate, I was selected for a trip to Switzerland the following year.

I experienced many different aspects of my trade as a retail professional in Switzerland. Our team leader did everything he could to enhance our experience and allow us to gain new insights. The affection and kindness that I received from our host families spoke volumes about the program. I was amazed by every single aspect from the level of training that went into it to all the different presentations we gave and received at clubs both before and after. The generosity of Rotary to offer this level of professional development to non-members astounded me.

Not long after, with all these experiences still fresh in my mind, I received an invitation from the Rotary club that hosted my exchange to join their club. The decision was easy – I wanted to give back in any way I could. But in reality, I have always received as much as I have given or more.

I later had a chance to get involved with another club that spun off of that club as charter secretary and eventually president. I now serve the Rotary Club of Deonar in District 3141 as director of public relations working together with club leaders, something I truly enjoy. I write on a variety of topics and maintain a monthly blog that keeps our community and members informed.

I have also had the good fortune to visit RI World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, and meet the amazing people who provide support to clubs and districts.

What has kept me in Rotary these many years is the level of engagement that I am able to have with like-minded people who enable me to take part in truly amazing projects. I completely agree with RI President Shekhar Mehta, who has said that the rent we pay to stay on planet earth is the service we provide to our community. I am a Rotary member for life because of the opportunity it provides me to continue impacting the world in meaningful, fun, and engaging ways.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Group Study Exchange (GSE) program is a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for business and professional men and women in their initial years of professional life. Rotary districts in different countries are paired to send and receive professional study groups of four team members and one Rotarian team leader to travel for approximately four weeks, staying in the homes of Rotarians when possible.
 
Launched in 1965 by the Rotary Foundation, this dynamic program has built a successful track record at the personal, community, and international level. With good planning, a goal-driven itinerary, and active participation of dedicated Rotarians, a GSE can be an exceptional educational experience for both the visiting GSE team and local Rotarians.  Since 2015, this opportunity is now solely funded by Rotary districts, who choose to carry on this wonderful and inspiring tradition.