Am I eligible to be a Rotary exchange student?
The Rotary Youth Exchange program is generally open to high school students between ages of 15 and 18, but does vary between states. .
Exchange student candidates must be outgoing, self-confident, friendly, adaptable, and adventurous, willing to learn a foreign language, with above average grades in school.
What is the long-term program?
For a truly amazing, life-changing experience, there is nothing like the long-term exchange. Students spend a year in another country, becoming fluent in the language and immersed in the culture, and developing friendships that will last a lifetime.
It is mandatory for participants to attend high school, and may or may not get credit back home for courses taken (but Universities may recognize the value of exchange programs, with credit for language ability and greater acceptance rates!). Each student will likely have more than one and usually up to three or four host families through the year, to broaden the experience and see the variations that exist in all cultures.
It takes a very special teen to consider him or herself capable of spending a year abroad, but the rewards and experiences are unlike anything you may ever know again. If you think you can do this, don’t let the opportunity pass you by.
Do I get to choose my country?
A very popular question. And the answer is… yes and no. The countries we exchange with are those we know run top-quality programs and are Rotary International Certified, and we re-evaluate them each year. There are a limited number of exchanges available with each country, and we will not overload any country in either direction, inbound or outbound.
When allocating countries we take into account the Hosting Countries specific requirements as well as your preferences.
We ask you to select five preferred countries, and we allow you to refuse any countries that you would not accept as a host country. The majority of students will get one of their five choices. But remember, flexibility is a vital characteristic for a successful exchange student, and that starts right at the beginning.
Do I have to know another language?
No, not at all. Naturally, it would help to have some familiarity with the language of the country you go to, but we don’t limit the program to those who are already bi-lingual. In fact, one of the great benefits of the program is quickly gaining fluency in another language.
Typically, our students have some fluency in 3-4 months, even without any previous knowledge of the language! But we strongly recommend that all participants start learning their target language as soon as they are selected for the program. The more of the language you know up front, the better your experience will be.
Will I get school credit for my exchange year?
This is always a tough question because it varies from school to school and country to country. You should sit down with your school counselors when you apply and when you know what country you are going to for your year. Pre-planning makes a big difference.
Is there any future advantage?
By completing a full year exchange in another culture you are demonstrating that you are an exceptional young person. Future employers are likly to view of your year’s experience, not to mention the benefits of becoming bi-lingual or bi-cultural.
What if I have problems during my exchange?
The design of the Rotary Exchange program is such that if you have problems we have the resources to help you solve the problems, starting with a Rotary Club right in the community in which you are living. You will have multiple avenues of help available to you to resolve any problem that might come up.
Rotary International and Rotarians in general take very seriously our responsibility for the safety and security of all Rotary exchange students, both inbound and outbound. In November, 2002, the Board of Directors of Rotary International adopted the following Statement of Conduct for Working with Youth:
Rotary International is committed to creating and maintaining the safest possible environment for all participants in Rotary activities. It is the duty of all Rotarians, Rotarians’ spouses, partners, and other volunteers to safeguard to the best of their ability the welfare of and to prevent the physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of children and young people with whom they come into contact.
Do my parents have to host an inbound student?
Parents of long-term outbound students are not required to host. However, we certainly encourage it.
Many, of course, choose to do so, partly because they have an empty room, but also so they can experience some of what their son or daughter is going through. We encourage that, but we also recognize that not all families are able to host.
In reality it is the other side of exchange and for parents often the most rewarding part. Quite often you will have life long links with students from other countries who have stayed with you.
We do ask outbound students and their families to help find host families in their own communities, to accommodate the inbound student that will be hosted by their Rotary Club.
After all Rotary Youth Exchange relies heavily on the goodwill of people all around the world. That is why it is an exchange!
OK, bottom line, what does it cost?
Probably a lot less than you think. You see, Rotarians are all volunteers, so there are no salaries or commissions paid to the people who administer this program. It does cost money, though, to make the arrangements, present the orientations, provide student materials and supplies, etc. And, of course, there’s airfare, insurance, and other travel expenses.
Rotary exchange students spending a year abroad are provided with a monthly allowance from their host Rotary club. This is usually the equivalent of $100 US, but may vary by location. If you want or need spending money beyond that, it is up to you and your parents to provide it. Of course, you do not have to pay for room and board, school fees, etc.
Almost all students are also required to deposit an Emergency Fund with their host Rotary Club. Usually $500, this money is there for unexpected expenses (medical, dental, telephone, etc.), and, if it is used during the year, it must be replenished by you or your parents. If it is not used, it is returned to you at the end of the year.
Keep in mind that whilst you are living at home in Australia, it does cost money. Think of this cost being offset by you living in a Host country.
If you have any further questions, please get in touch with your local Youth Exchange committee.