Rotary International is the largest and oldest international service organization in the world. With over 1.2 million members in more than 200 countries, it is a respected network of people whose overall mission is to build bridges of friendship, tolerance and understanding and to make the world a more peaceful place in which to live.
The Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) program, which began in 1972, has become one of the most respected exchange programs in the world. Each year more than 7000 students from over 80 countries participate in the program.
The strength of the program lies in its international network of thousands of Rotary volunteers who donate their time and resources to help improve their local communities and our international community. The RYE program provides an opportunity for outstanding students from all walks of life to study abroad for an academic year, with the local Rotary Club underwriting most of the costs. Only exceptional students, who are qualified, are invited to represent Rotary as Youth Exchange students.
There are several ways in which the Rotary program is different from most other exchange programs:
Students are sponsored and hosted by local Rotary Clubs, who provide constant monitoring of the student throughout the exchange. Each student is provided an Outbound Counselor from the sponsoring club and an Inbound Counselor from the hosting club. The Rotary Counselor is a mentor who meets with the student regularly and helps him or her address any issues before they become problems. Additionally there is a trained, supportive Youth Exchange Committee to assist the student at both ends of the exchange.
Host parents are volunteers and are NOT paid to host the student. This removes any financial incentive to host and helps to ensure that the student is actually wanted in the home.
The Rotary Youth Exchange Program costs MUCH LESS than other programs. This is due to the fact that the program is made up largely of volunteers. As a general rule, the exchange costs in the neighborhood of $5000 – $6000 total.excluding any Rotary trips that are offered. Compare this to AFS or YFU (Youth for Understanding) or other programs.
Rotary students normally live with three (3) host families during the year – not just one family, and there are several advantages to this arrangement. First, the student has a well-rounded experience by being exposed to a broader cross-section of the community since each family will have a different lifestyle and perspective. Second, in the event that the student and one of the host families don’t adjust well to one another, alternate families have already been identified and are prepared to “step in” and take the student into their homes immediately.
Rotary Youth Exchange is not for everyone. However, for those exceptional students who are mature, academically successful, adventuresome, and ready to meet the challenges of living abroad for a year, the RYE Program will be a mind-expanding, life changing experience.
Recommended Reading: “The New Global Student” by Maya Frost
This book is a “must read” for any student considering Rotary Youth Exchange. Not only does it provide a comprehensive summary of the current U.S. educational system, but also makes a strong case for why a high school level youth exchange experience is the best educational opportunity a parent can provide a child.
Youth Exchange Committee Members
YEO & Youth Exchange Chair
JC Area Coordinator
Springfield Area Coordinator
Warren and Debbie Prost