Coming up 40 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday  with a Group Study Exchange Experience that has lasted a life-time.
For reasons I cannot recall, I had decided to learn French. Possibly, I’d probably not got over my Sartre-Camus passion. Back on point; in my Alliance-Francaise group was Rotarian, the late Ken Buchler, a charming man and the MD of the South African French fuel giant, Total.
I was a pioneer in South Africa’s delayed foray into the television era. The ruling faction feared TV would bring on change. There they were perceptive. So I found myself selected along with a law professor, a nuclear physicist and the leader of the Freemarket Foundation. Our Rotarian guardian and companion, a leading radiologist and a distinguished member of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.
Unfortunately, because the powers-that-be decided we should be presented alphabetically in the brochure which accompanied us, I occupied prime position. Clearly that presented some challenges for the editor who tried to find something to capture my unique talent or accomplishment, particularly in this august company. So opted for: “Kevin Kevany is single.”
Obviously that led to all the mothers, I think they were still Rotary ‘Annes’, locking up their daughters. It was fortunate (in these circumstances only) that I bore more than a passing resemblance to a leading British TV personality of the time, Sir Terry Wogan – as a young man, I should add.
This meant that the wary mothers fussed me hugely and I was royally treated; all fears for their daughters forgotten.
While a number of our hosts are now sadly departed, for many years when I returned to Britain on business or holidays I still made a point of travelling out to East Anglia – Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge in particular to renew those friendships – and as a consequence of my week’s ‘Work Experience’ (an often underestimated benefit of GSE) with Anglia TV and the BBC, I subsequently worked with ‘Panorama’ and ‘Newsnight’ in South Africa.
Group Study Exchanges are still occurring within Rotary but mostly have been replaced by the more focussed Vocational Training Teams.