There are many different organizations and programs out there for students who want to study abroad. Rotary International is one to be considered. While being well-known for many benevolent causes, one of their biggest programs is offering young students around the world the opportunity to travel and live abroad. I went on a year-long exchange with the Rotary Youth Exchange in France and had the best year of my life.
So what exactly is Rotary International and the Rotary Youth Exchange?
Rotary International is a “worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service and encourages high ethical standards in all vocations.” Their main focus is service. The objective of the Rotary Youth Exchange is to give students and youth the opportunity to see more of the world, to make connections, to represent their country, and to experience life abroad. Rotary’s mission is to make the world a smaller place by bringing people together.
There are over 34,000 Rotary clubs in every country so make sure to find out where the closest Rotary club is to you. The Rotarian volunteers are what make the Rotary Youth Exchange possible and affordable for students. With this program, you can choose whether to study abroad for a summer term or a long term. For students who are in between the ages of 18-25, the Rotary offers the New Generations Exchange. This exchange lasts from three weeks to three months. It is ideal for recent secondary school graduates. It can include homestays, tours, camps, or specialized internships.
The great benefit of the Rotary Youth Exchange program is that it is very affordable. Each regional Rotary club is different in terms of organization and costs but generally you are responsible for the following elements: round-trip airfare, health and accident insurance, travel documents, clothing and other necessities, spending money, emergency funds for unpredicted expenses, and ancillary travel and tours. The Rotary will cover your placement (school tuition and arrangements) and will give you a small stipend of usually $50-100 per month. Your host families will pay for your room and board.
Also another amazing advantage to the Rotary Youth Exchange is the community of exchange students that you will be involved in. I got the incredible opportunity to bond with young students like me from around the world. People coming from every corner of the earth join together in a foreign country to share their life-changing experience. The Rotary offers weekends and special gatherings between exchange students so that everyone can share experiences. In my long-term exchange, I got to meet 450 exchange students of every nationality. The friendships that I made with these people will last a lifetime. Thanks to the Rotary, this international family was made possible. Being able to connect with people who live thousands of miles away on the other side of the planet opens your eyes to new cultures and spreads your horizon farther than just your host country.
However, with the Rotary there is a small hitch. You are not necessarily guaranteed the country of your pick. There are over 150 countries that participate in the Rotary Youth Exchange. You are more likely to get the country of your pick with a shorter/summer exchange. There have been many cases of people wishing to study in Europe who have ended up studying in an Asian country. But it is still a fascinating experience. No matter when you end up studying, there are many incredible elements to discover– the culture, the people, the education the food, the fashion, the lifestyle, etc.
So how do I apply?
Contact your local Rotary club to see if they are already involved with the Rotary Youth Exchange. Personally, my Rotary club had never participated in the Rotary Youth Exchange before but since I had heard about it before I decided to propose the idea to my club. They were willing to help and support me. After the long application process there is an in-person interview in front of a panel of Rotarians. If you are noted as an acceptable candidate you will quickly hear from your Rotary about your country assignment. There are no specific requirements for you to be accepted, only that you must be a respectable ambassador for your home country and show that you are someone who is interested in discovering a new life abroad.
My experience with the Rotary Youth Exchange has changed my life. I have gotten a completely new perspective from studying abroad in France. This organization is fantastic if you are looking for an affordable way to study abroad, to meet incredible people from all around the world, and discover a new way of life.