Destin girl spends year in Hungary

Annie Blanks
The Destin Log
Laura Harris poses with the Hungarian Flag. The Niceville High Schol graduate spent a full year abroad in Hungary as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange Program.

Larae Harris recently spent a year abroad in Hungary as part of the Rotary Club Youth Exchange program, and now she’s back to tell her story.

The recent Niceville graduate finished up her course requirements a year early, so she decided to apply for a sponsorship through the Destin Rotary Club to travel and study abroad. After the application process, Harris was accepted to the program, and got her first choice destination: Hungary.

“I wanted to go somewhere kind of unusual,” she said. “Hungary is still safe and a part of Europe, but it’s not a place everyone knows everything about.”

Though she had already finished her course requirements, Harris still went to school every day in Hungary and studied the language.

“I biked to school every day in the rain, snow or sleet,” she said.

Harris said she learned a lot during her year abroad, and it wasn’t all necessarily academic. She learned to have an open mind when it came to new experiences.

“I learned to say yes to anything,” she said. “I ate pig brains, skied in the Alps, competed in Hungarian competitions.” She added that she actually won one of those competitions.

Another issue that opened Harris’ eyes was one that hit surprisingly close to home for the Destin native.

“Here, we have so many immigrants, and it’s easy to get frustrated when they don’t speak out language,” she said. “But when you go to another country, you’re the one who can’t speak the language. You go to the bakery, wherever, and they can’t understand your order. It’s the other side of the coin.”

Jeanne Dailey, president of the Destin Rotary Club from 2015-16, said she was impressed with Harris’ initiative from the beginning.

“It takes a lot of courage, strength and personal self confidence to be willing to go to a different country, especially a place with a completely different culture and climate,” Dailey said. “She accomplished all that and more. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and I’m happy the Destin Rotary Club could support her in any small way that we could.” 

Harris graduated from Niceville High School this year and will be attending Florida State University in the fall.