Rotary nurtures exchange of vows

YOU'LL often hear people say that everything happens for a reason. Stacy Carl-McGrath firmly believes that.

The former Clarence Valley girl's story begins about 13 years ago when the then 17-year-old was offered a position in the Rotary Youth Exchange program.

She had studied German as a language at Grafton High School and was keen to improve her language skills and learn more about Germany.

Although having completed her Higher School Certificate in Australia, part of the Rotary exchange program requires recipients to attend school in their host country.

When she arrived at the airport in Frankfurt, Stacy was greeted with something she'd never seen in the Clarence Valley.

“It had been snowing, so it was really cold, but I was just so excited to be there,” she said.

“I was fortunate that my host family could speak English, so we could understand each other.”

Not only did Stacy become proficient in German during her stay, she also met the love of her life - a student named Stefan - and this is where her story gets romantic.

About a month before Stacy returned to Australia, Stefan proposed to his Aussie love. He even rang Stacy's dad to ask his permission.

Stacy accepted the proposal but had to return to Australia to begin her medical science degree in Brisbane.

This meant a long-distance relationship for Stacy and Stefan for a number of years until Stacy had not only completed her Bachelor's degree, but also her Honours.

The couple married in 2001 and returned to Germany, where Stacy undertook PhD studies.

The now 'Dr' Carl-McGrath spent eight years working as a cancer research scientist, looking into stomach cancer.

Stacy was back in the Valley last week to visit family and friends.

She stopped off at a Grafton Midday Rotary meeting to tell others how much she got out of Rotary's student exchange program.

“I became more independent. It can be a difficult time emotionally so I had to rely on myself a lot more,” she said.

“The program was great because of the supervision and support. I also got an allowance from Rotary which enabled me to take in the cultural side of Germany, such as museums.”

Stacy flew back to Germany yesterday. She said she and Stefan were considering a move to the United Kingdom in the near future.

Stacy became proficient in German and met the love of her life.

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