If Belgium ever hit the heights of international women's rugby, the name Fanny Scaillet is one to keep an eye out for. The 18-year-old John Paul College student has been in Rotorua on a Rotary International Youth Exchange with the Rotary Club of Rotorua Sunrise for the past 10 months. And what better way to embrace the Kiwi culture than through sports? That is exactly what Scaillet has done, trying her hand at a range of Kiwi sports while here, including rugby, volleyball, athletics and even running her first full marathon. She shares some highlights of her time in New Zealand.

Before she arrived in New Zealand last July, Fanny Scaillet had never seen a rugby ball or even seen the game played on television - a bizarre concept for Kiwis who have grown up unable to avoid it.

The Belgian exchange student has just a few months left of her one-year exchange in Rotorua and her aim for her experience has been to embrace New Zealand culture. The best way for her to do just that, she thought, was to have a go at the national sport.

The 18-year-old John Paul College student, who has been in Rotorua on a Rotary International Youth Exchange with the Rotary Club of Rotorua Sunrise for the past 10 months, joined her school team, learned the game and competed at the North Island Secondary School Sevens tournament.

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"I didn't know how to play rugby before coming here but I knew, when I arrived here, the Kiwi sports and I just wanted to try it," Scaillet says.

"I really enjoyed it. I like the fact that it's a team sport, I'm clearly a team sport person, and it's different because it's a contact sport - basketball is the most contact sport I have played before that.

"When I arrived here and I was going to weekends and there were young people, often there is a rugby ball and everybody is playing with that. I enjoy passing the ball and once I understood the game I really liked it. I had really good teammates too."

Belgian exchange student Fanny Scaillet has tried a wide range of sports while in New Zealand.

In fact, she enjoyed the sport so much she has already looked up where she can play in Belgium.

"I'm pretty sure I will keep on going because I really enjoy it, I had a look already on the internet. I would definitely like rugby to be more popular in Belgium."

No stranger to keeping busy through sport, she plays a lot of volleyball back home in Belgium, playing for two teams, training four times a week and playing two games every weekend.

While in Rotorua she played for Volleyball Rotorua.

"I went to a tournament with them in Hamilton, a Filipino tournament, and we won. That was a lot of fun."

During her time in Rotorua she also completed the Tough Gal Challenge, learned to surf, represented John Paul College in javelin at the Bay of Plenty Regional and then Waikato/BOP Athletics Championships and finished third in her age group at the Ōhōpe Half Marathon.

During her first week in New Zealand, Belgian exchange student Fanny Scaillet took on the Tough Gal Challenge. Photo / Supplied
During her first week in New Zealand, Belgian exchange student Fanny Scaillet took on the Tough Gal Challenge. Photo / Supplied

At the weekend, she completed the Rotorua Marathon in 4h 55m, her first full marathon.

"It's a funny story. The first day I arrived in New Zealand I was picked up from the airport and drove from Auckland to Rotorua. When I saw [Lake Rotorua] I asked how far it was around and was told 42km. So I knew that was a marathon and thought it could be an objective.

"When I learned there was a race every year and it was in May, so the end of my time here, and I thought 'okay, that's my crazy challenge for the year'.

"They always say to do things you won't do in Belgium in your exchange. I never thought I would do a marathon but I started training in January with the Lake City Athletic Club. The fitness came and I ran the full marathon ... it was amazing. The fact that it was in Rotorua, my exchange city, meant a lot to me. The fact that I did it proved that I grew here and proved to myself I can do anything if I work for it."

While Belgium have a national rugby side, they will not be playing at the Rugby World Cup this year so Scaillet says "of course" she will be supporting the All Blacks.