Who is eligible to be a Rotary exchange student?

The Rotary Youth Exchange program is open to high school students between the ages of 15 and 17½* on departure. It does not matter whether your parents are members of a Rotary Club - the program is open to children of Rotarians and non-Rotarians alike.

Exchange student candidates must be outgoing, self-confident, friendly, adaptable, and adventurous, willing to learn a foreign language, with good grades in school. The final application form will require you to tell about yourself and your family, and provide references from school teachers and administrators.

*Note: District 7010’s policy is that the maximum age of a student is 17 and 6 months as at July 1 in the year of departure on the exchange.

What is the long-term program?

Rotary offers three types of exchanges for high school students. For a truly amazing, life-changing experience, there is nothing like the long-term exchange. Students spend a year in another country, immersing themselves in the culture, becoming reasonably fluent in the host language, and developing friendships that will last a lifetime.

Participants attend high school, and may or may not get credit back home for courses taken (but colleges often recognize the value of exchange programs, with credit for language ability and greater acceptance rates!). Each student will have up to three or four host families through the year, to broaden the micro-experience and see the variations that exist within 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.

What is the short-term program?

Interested in a taste of the world, and willing to share yours with others? Then the short-term program may be for you. Rotary's short-term exchange program usually takes place during the summer, and brings together paired families from different countries. Typically, you would spend 3-4 weeks overseas with a family that has a son or daughter of approximately the same age. And then, you and your new host sibling would come back for a 3-4 week stay with your family (the order can be reversed, with the foreign student coming here first - whichever works best for the families is fine). This is called the Summer Short Term Exchange.

We also have a two month Short Term exchange program where our students go out to another country for July and August, and in return host a student here for December and January.

The short-term program does not generally include school attendance, and instead provides its educational experiences through exposure to a new language and culture. Naturally, the friendships that develop often last a long time, with repeat visits a very common occurrence.

For younger students, or perhaps those wanting to sample the experience before committing to the long-term program, Rotary's short-term exchange program can be a good fit.

Do I get to choose my country?

A very popular question. And the answer is ... no. The countries we exchange with are those we know run top-quality programs, and we re-evaluate them each year. The students are advised of the countries we will be exchanging with during the upcoming year.

During the orientation session held in February, outbound students are assigned a country by the members of the district committee attending the weekend. Their decision is informed by the student’s application form, the interview held with the student and interaction throughout the weekend.

It is worth noting that 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. However, as soon as you find out what country you are heading to, the expectation is that you will start learning the language and that you will be able, at a minimum, to introduce yourself and ask for directions. 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, but generally you do not get credits except perhaps for a language. You should sit down with your school counselors when you apply and when you know what country you are going to for your year.

Is there any future advantage to being a Rotary Exchange Student?

Yes! Past history has indicated that having the Rotary Exchange Year on your college application carries more weight in many cases than your grades. Colleges and Universities are looking for students that are going to successfully complete their studies and graduate. By completing a full year exchange in another culture you are showing them that you have the "right stuff", the "stick-to-it-ness" that schools and future employers look for, and then there are 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 District 7010 and each of your clubs 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. 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. 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.

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. A significant portion of the cost of the program is paid by the participating Rotary Clubs, but there is a cost to the student. Here is a breakdown:

You must submit a non-refundable fee with your application in order to be considered for the program. The upfront cost of the program for a student is about $3,000. That includes your round trip airfare, orientation weekends, your Rotary blazer, pins, business cards, and other supplies. A schedule is available to spread the payments out over several months. The cost is the same regardless of destination - that way, you can go to the country that you are best suited for, without comparing airfares (Note: if you don't already have a passport, you will need to obtain one, at your own expense). You will be responsible for the cost of obtaining a passport, health/travel insurance, any fees for mandatory language camps in the destination country, additional spending money while you're on exchange, and any optional tours offered through Rotary during or at the end of your year.

Rotary exchange students spending a year abroad are provided with a monthly allowance from their host Rotary club. This is usually the equivalent of approximately $100, 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.

Outbound students are also required to deposit an Emergency Fund with their host Rotary Club. Usually this is $500, and this money is there for unexpected expenses (medical, dental, telephone, etc.). 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.

In addition, students have to make a deposit of $500 to be retained by District 7010. Once the student has successfully completed his or her exchange, and the required reports are filed by parents and outbounds, the district treasurer will refund the money to the parents.

To summarize, then, the program costs are $3,000 in advance of departure (paid on a schedule to be provided), an Emergency Fund of $500 to be taken with you in th ecurrency of the host country, a deposit of $500 to be reimbursed upon successful completion of the exchange, health/travel insurance ($6-700), whatever additional spending money you and your parents agree on, tours sponsored by host Rotary Districts and, in some countries, the cost of a language camp.