Nothing says ‘Cultural Diversity” more than the Youth Exchange program. Each year, our District places between 10-14 students, between the ages of 15 and 18, from different countries in the homes of host families for an average of 5.5 months, and then places the student with another host family for the remaining 5,5 months. This allows the student to have a greater knowledge base of two similar, but different, U.S. families. Each year we find the students speak multiple languages, and English is one of them. When they arrive, their English may be halting, but it is certainly understandable.
Over 9,000 students throughout the world are exchanged each year. Similar to other organizations that also are youth exchange programs, the biggest difference is that we don’t charge the student for our volunteer services, and we don’t pay the host family. We consider the opportunity of hosting a student who really wants to be here a gift within itself. Our hosting families will agree.
Students generally arrive in August, in time for school to begin in September. The Rotary Club Youth Exchange Officer YEO) will have been in touch with the student and will notify the host family of the student’s arrival. The YEO and/or the Host Family will meet the student at the airport and bring them home. Over the course of the first week they will get to know one another and become familiar with the objects in the house, and with the routines and expectations the host family may have of the student. We have found over the years of having students in our district that sometimes a simple doorknob, is not as simple as it looks. Not everyone has a doorknob as we do.
We are also very fortunate in that we send students from our district overseas to be an exchange student, allowing our students cultural diversity as well. We average 3-5 students each year and they have lived in countries in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Students have a form in which they can pick their top 15 countries, listed in the order they wish to go to. Most are placed within their top five picks.
Cultural exchange programs changes the lives of the students who take advantage of the opportunity. If you, or anyone you know, has a student interested in, please call the Youth Exchange Committee Chairman, Lee Scherwitz, or the inbound program coordinator, Suescherwitz@hotmail.com. For those US students wishing to travel and study abroad, contact Ingrid Nova68@hotmail.com, our outbound coordinator, for more information.