Rotary Youth Exchange is the opportunity of a lifetime for the more than 8,000 students who participate worldwide each year.

imageKate Stokes was a Rotary youth exchange student from 2003-2004 in a remote town in northern Japan. She shared her experience with us today (notes below). Her exchange in Japan was when she was 18. The photo here is of Kate in Japan. She rode a bike for 45 minutes to school each way every day in any weather (in a skirt that was part of her school uniform!) She says it was an incredible year because Rotary got her so involved with everything that was going on in the community. Kate is still in touch with so many of the other exchange students in Japan during the same time. All of her host parents came to America for her wedding. They don’t speak English but they are Rotarians and they didn’t want to miss that special day for Kate. Her host families call her to follow up and treat her like a daughter.

Kate is currently on the District 5110 Youth Exchange Committee as a liaison for Japan and Thailand as well as the Youth Exchange Officer for our club. She recently attended the Rotary North American Youth Exchange Network conference along with 500 Rotarians from over 20 countries and will share knowledge she gained about Rotary Youth Exchange on the Rotary International level, along with our District and Club levels.

image3Presentation Notes:

  • Approx. 500 Rotarians from over 20 countries
  • Exchange program students and parents become Rotarians.
  • There are over 6,000 students in the long term programs each year. There are over 2500 in the short-term exchanges each year and the US and Europe are the most popular host countries.
  • Only 3% of exchanges were terminated early. Homesickness is the #1 reason, which we try to conquer before the students leave. There is a lot of intense orientation and training prior to the trip to help them understand how big going away for a year at this age can be.
  • In 2015-16, our district sent 29 students abroad.
  • We’re hosting 28 international students from 19 countries.
  • We’re training 27 kids leaving in August and processing documents for 27 arriving.
  • Lots of volunteers are needed to handle this amount of exchanges! There are 412 in our district currently helping with this program.
  • There are monthly programs for exchange students within our district. The students spend 28 days together each year.
  • The hardest part of the exchange program is when the kids return after leaving their exchange and so our district is putting together a rebound program.
  • Club roles include the Youth Exchange Officer (YEO) and the Counselor. The YEO takes care of all the paperwork and the counselor checks in with the students and school and host family and helps to make the exchange a success.
  • Rotarians are asked to support the youth exchange students to have a successful year and the most important ways outside of hosting is to engage the student in activities and events.
  • We’re rebranding a little to market the program as “The RYE Scholarship”. The student’s commitment is around $6000 but Rotary spends a lot of money to make this work.