The Rotary International Youth Exchange program

Monday, March 29, 2010

By Bob Hauck, Youth Exchange Chair for the Rotary Club of Shoreline (Breakfast)

5000 high school students every year are exchange students all around the globe through a program more than 50 years old. Rotary’s International Youth Exchange is one of its oldest and most successful programs. Rotary Clubs around the world have established an intricate network of exchanges involving most of the 160+ countries where its clubs exist. The fifty-five clubs in the Seattle metro area collaborate and annually send out --- and receive --- about 30 students annually to locations selected from a menu of about 20 countries.

Photo: Francisca Perez Heredia, of Talca, Chile, gets to know her Shoreline host families. Photo by Jan Hansen.

Why is Rotary’s Youth Exchange so successful, year after year?
  • Students are carefully screened by local Rotarians to ensure that they truly want to participate in the program and will be effective unofficial ambassadors of our country while abroad.
  • An entire Rotary club at each end of their exchange takes responsibility for their success and their safety.
  • The cost is reasonable and affordable to most families, largely because the program is managed by volunteer teams of Rotarians.
  • Students live with carefully screened families who volunteer as hosts because they also value the exchange experience.
The program has two major exchanges with quite different features:

Year-long Academic Exchange attracts students that are not only good citizens but are also excellent students who want immersion in another culture and language.

Typically they leave in August and return in July, often participating in an elective end-of-year excursion in their foreign country with other exchange students from many nations. They live with 3 or 4 families carefully selected by the host Rotary Club but attend one high school. The all-inclusive cost this year was approximately $4000.

The Summer Short Cultural Exchange appeals to U.S. students who want a cross-cultural experience but don’t want to leave for an entire school year. Applicants should be good citizens and better-than-average students. Typically the US student flies to their destination country in late June and lives with their host family and “exchange partner” for a month. Then the two students fly back together and live with the U.S. student’s family for a second month. The cost is essentially that of the international airline ticket.

Photo: Exchange student Francisca Perez Heredia goes to the fair. Photo by Jan Hansen.

Applications for these programs are received in fall 2010 with subsequent interviews by Rotary teams in November and December. Students learn their destinations in spring in time to correspond with host families and become acquainted before they depart.

If interested please contact the chairs of the program in our Shoreline Rotary Clubs: Gary Epps (Lunch club) and Bob Hauck (Breakfast Club). These two Rotary Clubs sponsor students from Shorewood High School, but Epps and Hauck can connect interested students from any other high schools with their local Rotary Clubs.

More information can be found at the Rotary website. Additionally, past exchange students and their families are eager to share their experience with interested students.

Host Family Opportunities

Every year the program has openings for 3-4 families to host an incoming student. The family should live in the Shorewood High School area. The guest student receives an allowance from Rotary for incidental expenses. Board and room are donated by the host family. Applicant families are interviewed by local Rotarians. Our Rotary program has established a Youth Protection Program which necessitates the type of personal screening which is required of teachers and other workers with youth.

Families with school-age children work out best for hosting. Not surprisingly, younger children in host families learn about the bigger, wider world “out there” and often become exchange students in their high school years.


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