The most powerful force in the promotion of international understanding and peace is exposure to different cultures. The world becomes a smaller, friendlier place when we learn that all people - regardless of nationality - desire the same basic things: a safe, comfortable environment that allows for a rich and satisfying life for our children and ourselves. At the same time, we all learn that what is “common sense” in one culture can be strange or even offensive in another. Rotary Youth Exchange provides thousands of young people and host families with the opportunity to meet people from other lands and to experience one another’s cultures. This plants the seeds for a lifetime of international understanding.
Since 1927, students and host families all over the world have had their horizons broadened and their lives enriched by the generosity of Rotary's Youth Exchange program. Administered by Rotary clubs, districts and multidistrict groups, the program today involves more than 82 countries and over 8,000 students each year. District 5580 is part of the Central States Multidistrict.
The first documented exchanges date back to 1927, when the Rotary Club of Nice, France, initiated exchanges with European students. Exchanges between clubs in California, USA, and Latin American countries began in 1939, and exchange activities spread to the eastern United States in 1958. In 1972, the RI Board of Directors agreed to recommend Youth Exchange to clubs worldwide as a worthwhile international activity that promotes global peace and understanding.
This year, more than 8,000 teens will see the world the way it is best seen - from the inside out - through the Rotary Youth Exchange program. As a Rotary Youth Exchange student, young people will spend a year living with a host family in a country other than their own. They may learn a new language; they will learn a new way of living and a great deal about themselves and their own cultures. But there's more. While they are busy learning, the people they meet will be learning as
well - about a new country, culture, and ideas. Exchange students are ambassadors helping to bring the world closer together, and making good friends in the process.
In most study abroad programs, students only get the chance to live with one host family. With Rotary, students have the opportunity to live with up to three or four different families. Because the main goal of the Rotary program is to promote peace and understanding among the different cultures of the world, Rotary believes that the students will gain greater insight into the ways of their host country by living with more than one family.
High school students between the ages of 15 and 18 are eligible for Rotary Youth Exchange. As the oldest exchange program of its kind, Rotary Youth Exchange takes pride in choosing students who are academically above average, articulate, and demonstrate leadership in their communities.
Outbound Rotary Youth Exchange Student Candidates
Ideal candidates should possess qualities such as openness, flexibility and an eagerness to delve into new experiences - that will enable them to become excellent cultural ambassadors. They should also be prepared to and have an interest in learning and living in a foreign language.
- Must be a good student (top half of class)
- Between 15 1/2 and 18 1/2 years old at the time of departure
Other Important Attributes
- The initiative to get involved in activities and to make friends in the host country.
- Applicants should have pleasant personality and must be:
- Able to adjust to a new and different culture/country
- Willing live apart from their families for the year
- Open to new and different experiences
Our 2008 outbound student, Stephen Margarit, meeting the then-District Governor
of District 1830 during his trip to Germany.
Costs for participation
This can vary by the student’s spending habits, the cost of living in the host country, the airfare to and from the country (unfortunately you must purchase a full fare ticket) and host district/country requirements (some require purchase of additional insurance).
District 5580 has a $100 application fee to be paid by the student to cover district costs for decentralized interviewing and related activities. (Note that this saves the families transporation and accommodation costs for the former centralized process). This fee is submitted with the club’s referral to the district committee in late September and it is non-refundable once received.
District 5580 also has a $700 program fee that is payable by the student upon acceptance of the country assignment from Central States. This fee will be applied to the cost of the required July conference and Central States insurance (mandatory) provided the student remains with the program. (In effect, this fee is a prepayment of expenses that would ultimately be
incurred.) If the student withdraws from the program before going abroad, this fee will be not refunded. It will be used to defray expenses incurred in the training program for the student.
Central States insurance this year is $385 and is going up to $500 next year. As indicated above the program fee will be applied to this, with the balance payable by the student.
Passports will be required and have associated fees in the US and Canada. Visas (where required by the host country) will involve fees specific to that country and could involve attendance at a consulate or embassy.
Some host countries require purchase of their insurance in addition to the mandatory Central States insurance, despite whatever coverage the parents might already have.
Gifts, pins and other hospitality items the student brings to the country for their host families and others can be creative and their cost will be entirely at the discretion of the student and his/her parents. Parents will also probably want to send ‘care packages’ and Christmas/birthday gifts which will involve shipping costs. Generally, a good digital camera is recommended, but cell phones are commonly discouraged (the host country will provide advice in this regard).
The host club typically provides a monthly allowance which may be sufficient for some students. Other students have more lavish spending habits and may expect additional spending money from home. These are discussions to be held between the parents and student. However, it is common for the student to require additional luggage to get home after their year abroad to bring back the new stuff they acquired. This should be planned well before departure to take advantage of the most economical means of shipping.
Most countries have extra trips to explore their country or other nearby countries. These are optional trips and, although recommended, not required.
For most students, the basic cost of the year is between $4,000 - $6,000 ($5,000 - $7,000 $CAD) although this is very much dependent on your spending habits while on exchange. This does not include what families save while the student is abroad (food, car insurance, etc.)
- Host families and school
- Monthly allowance
- And often lots of extras ....
Children of Rotarians are welcome to participate; however, students do not have to be involved with or associated with Rotary in any way in order to apply.
All students are ambassadors of the Rotary club that sponsored them and of their country. They are expected to follow the Youth Exchange program rules, be open to new experiences, and strive to learn the language of the host country.
The student and his/her own family pays for round-trip air transportation, clothing, health insurance, administrative fees and incidental expenses. Most other expenses are covered by their Rotary district, club or host family.
Rotarians are encouraged to be host families, but your Rotary Club may also select a non-Rotarian family as one or more of their host families. It is the responsibility of the Rotary Youth Exchange host family to provide room and board for your Rotary Club's exchange student. They are expected to exercise general parental supervision over the student just as they would with their own children, and involve him or her in daily household chores and activities. The exchange works best when the student is a family member rather than a guest.
However, most host families' involvement with their student does not stop at room and board. The families often share their native background while also learning about their exchange son or daughter's culture. This does not mean that you have to arrange elaborate entertainment, but simply make the student a part of your family. Give him or her the opportunity to share in the same aspects of your family life that most teenage students experience in your culture.
Other suggested host family responsibilities include:
- Meeting the exchange student on arrival in your country and making the student feel at home as part of the family;
- Helping the student master our language;
- Involving the student in obligations similar to those established for your own family members;
- Helping the student meet Rotary obligations, which usually include attending Rotary functions, including club and/or district meetings;
- Seeing that the student meets other young people
- Providing a safe environment for the student and ensuring the student's safety;
- Being tolerant of differences and willing to change your own ideas.
Responsibilities of Host Clubs:
- Provide and train a youth exchange officer and a counselor for the student
- The Rotarian counselor maintains and documents monthly contact with the host family and the student throughout the exchange
- Provide host families
- Involve the student in the club and community activities
- Training host families
- Providing information to Rotary District leadership regarding police background clearances and completion of application forms for all adult participants in the student’s exchange (principally YEO, counselor and host parents/adult children, but also others who might have unsupervised control over the student)
Hosting a Youth Exchange student from another country is a challenge - and an opportunity. Involvement with an exchange student challenges a host family to become familiar with another culture, while providing the opportunity to share a student's hopes and ambitions. These challenges and opportunities promise to enrich the lives of every member of your Rotary Club and their family.
Because Rotary exchanges with more countries than any other exchange organization, you could have a student from one of 163 countries living in your community. Not only will you provide an unforgettable service to a student from abroad, but you also will educate your Rotary Club and families about the world around them.
A group of inbound students to our district introducing themselves
during a special joint meeting of the three Rotary Clubs of Thunder Bay.