Rotary Youth Exchange is one of the largest of the international youth exchange organizations, drawing its participation from over 60 countries throughout world and serving about 8,000 students per year.
Rotary District 5100 (here), which encompasses the Northern third (south to Salem) of the state of Oregon and a portion of Southern Washington, is one of the more active exchange districts.. There are about 76 Rotary clubs in District 5100 and just over half participate in the youth exchange program. The countries involved in the exchange with the local Rotary clubs in recent years are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic/Slovakia, Denmark, Ecuador, Great Britain, Finland/Estonia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Turkey.
While many other study abroad programs are one way, the Rotary Youth Exchange is a true exchange program between a Rotary club here and a Rotary club abroad. If an Oregon high school student goes abroad on the Rotary Youth Exchange, a foreign high school student will come to that student's Oregon high school.
Oregon students are selected by local Rotary clubs either late in their freshman year or early in their sophomore year (local Rotary clubs vary). Students go abroad for their junior year. Rotary provides preparatory training during the student's sophomore year. Rotary arranges for the foreign schooling and living arrangements are provided by foreign families. The main expense for the student is international air travel, which can be up to $3,500.
Students who participate in the exchange should be in the upper one-third of their class scholastically, and must have a desire to experience a new culture and perhaps a different language, and to meet people and make friends while spending a year in another country. Interested students should contact their local Rotary club (here) or check with their high school counselor.
A particular challenge for the Rotarians has been the task of locating new host families. Each of the incoming students is placed with three or four families during their year, and it is this hosting which creates the possibility for a local youngster to participate in the program. All types of families, including single-parent households and retired couples, are welcome to contact Rotary about hosting a foreign student. Room, board, and guidance are provided by the families in exchange for a rare opportunity to become close to a young person from a different culture.