Why go on Youth Exchange?

Passport to the World Article:  Pages from Life_315.pdf


It was the best year! I enjoyed it a lot and learned a lot of things!

Aline from Mexico, Rotary Club of Murwillumbah Central


I met so many beautiful people during my exchange year, made lots of new friends and unforgettable experiences.

Tabea from Switzerland, Rotary Club of Grafton


I think of and miss my year abroad every day. I met so many amazing people and made friends for life! My exchange year made me grow up in ways that were beyond my expectations. I will forever be grateful to the Rotary Club of Jimboomba for such a life changing experience.

Pauli from Ecuador, Rotary Club of Jimboomba


Try to ask a former Rotary Exchange Student how his exchange year was. He may smile, stare, give a five-word answer or simply avoid your question. Why?

Because it would take approximately 3 months to give you a decent answer.
Because he knows there is no word to describe it.
Because you can listen but you cannot understand.

There is a group on Facebook gathering 21.821 Exchange Student from all around the world, where everyone speaks freely, tells stories or asks for help. It was a great initiative until some kids tried to convince the new ones that it was all about breaking the D’s, going on vacation and being free from parental authority. It’s the new generation, they say. It makes me sad and angry, and I am scared that this extreme minority influences Rotarians’ opinion about the YEP. This is why I will try to answer THE question.

Some will tell you “It’s not a year in a life; it’s a life in a year”. I didn’t realize how incredible this adventure was when I was living it, neither did I when I came back; I am just starting now- nearly five years afterwards. It takes some time to acknowledge how different you are now from then, there is definitely a “before” and an “after”.
Most of you have probably heard it all before:
“I traveled to the other side of the world at only 16 years old”
“I met so many different people from different countries”
“I learn a new language, a new culture, saw different landscapes …”
The truth is, the thing we learn the most about, is ourselves. This exchange gives us the opportunity to communicate with other people than our relatives and friends from back home. We stay in 4 host families with distinct education systems and values, we hang out in a multi-cultural atmosphere and we study in the local High school. Knowing that there are options to what we have been taught all our youth is something rare this young, and it has giving me the chance to make my own choices. I picked values and principles that best reflects who I am to build my own personality. I now know who I am, who I’m not and who I want to be.
The YEP taught me a lot. It taught me things you don’t learn in a classroom or in books. It taught me to be tolerant, open-minded, to be respectful. I deeply believe that every single meeting is meant to be and that we have lots to learn from one another.
Most of people my age are not self-confident- giving a speech on stage, in a foreign language in front of 1.000 students helps you to overstep quite a few challenging situations.
I acquired some qualities that will be useful all my life: being independent, outgoing and thoughtful to the ones I love. Once you have been an exchange student, you keep a special state of mind, knowing that this world is so small and so big at the same time- that we only are a little piece of the puzzle but that together actions matter.

I will turn 21 in two weeks and I feel good. I am currently studying International Business in a five-year course and I just started my placement in a management consulting agency. We have to study abroad for a year to get our bachelor so I applied to a university in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. I am really exciting and hope I will get in!
A few friends and I are creating a new Rotaract club in my district, it’s a lot of work as you can imagine but we are willing to give back to the Rotarian community as much as we can.
I now have friends and homes all around the world. I visited one in Poland last weekend and will meet with a Brazilian and a Belgian in London soon (this is so normal). A Swedish friend is also planning a trip to visit me in a few months and my best friend was born in South Africa, has lived in New Zealand, we met in Australia before she went on exchange to Ecuador (yes, this is quite usual for us too). I guarantee that phone bills, jetlag and long distance friendships issues are worth it.

I am proud of what I have achieved so far and I am eager to see what is next. I will forever be grateful to the Rotary of Hope Island for hosting me and allowing me to be part of all this.

You have the power the change lives. Use it.

Margaux from France to Australia 2009-2010, Rotary Club of Hope Island


After years it still makes my- heart bounce when I think about my exchange, when I hear from my Australian families or when I´m planning trips to see some of the other exchange students!

An exchange is so much more than a year in another country. It means growing up, getting confident with you who are and it means loving another family like it´s your own. Doing your year abroad with rotary means having the biggest family throughout the world!

Lea from Germany to Australia 2009 – 2010
, Rotary Club of Beaudesert


It's only been 6 months since I’ve got back and there's not one day that goes by without me thinking of my exchange and Australia. We can't even begin to describe what exchange is, but i met so any amazing people, from school as well as from Rotary, and every single moment i spent over there was worth everything, every sacrifice. I would give everything i have to go back and i'm already saving because people really made me feel like i belonged, and i do belong in Australia with my aussie families and friends. I could never have gone on exchange without Rotary because first of all everything is so expensive and second it's the only organization that actually wants you as you are, as an ambassador, and not just as a bag full of money that will soon be in their pockets... I would do it all over again and again and again a thousand times.

Suzon from Belgium
, Rotary Club of Mt Warning AM

I only spent 11 months in exchange but I remember every single things I did thanks to the rotary.
It was the experience of a life time !!!!
If I could I would return in exchange and stay there for ever.
Being an exchange student is amazing, it's not like going in vacation or anything, it's about sharing memories, sharing happiness, sharing so many things that you can't name.  But it's also about growing up.
It's a beautiful experience that I wish everyone could made once in their life."

Solveig from France, Rotary Club of Hope Island

I would HIGHLY recommend rotary youth exchange to people.  Before i left, i was rather shy, unhappy and just not in a good place.  Going away on that year changed my life so immeasurably for the better that i wouldn’t trade it for anything.  You will learn a lot about another culture and become more opening minded and appreciative of the things you have.  You will get to do things you never thought you would and have so much fun doing them.  You will make so many new friends from all over the world and improve your social skills a thousand fold, before i left public speaking was a nightmare (grade 11 I hid in the bathroom instead of giving a speech to the class) by the time I came back I had no issue talking in front of people, I’ve even done jobs performing to/in front of thousands of people now without issues.

The whole experience completely turned my outlook around and now I’m a very happy, healthy and friendly person with a passion for life.  There are so many advantages to going on exchange and spending time in another country that I couldn’t list them all but it's the best thing you will ever do!

Toran, sponsored by Southport Rotary Club, hosted by Charlottetown Rotary Club to go to Prince Edward Island, Canada.

It’s not so often these days that I get asked to speak about my exchange, a few years home tends to do that; so when the opportunity arises it takes all my knowledge of social norms not to get gushy, not to bore my listener with stories of food, travel and a million small details that are incredibly interesting to me but not so much to them. That’s what a Rotary Youth Exchange will do to you. It will make you passionate about things, it will make you want to share that passion with anyone who wants to listen, and plenty who don’t. It will open your eyes to the possibility that there is an infinite exciting world out there just waiting for you to explore it.

Let me be clear though on one thing, Youth Exchange, a Rotary one in particular, is not for everyone. It is an honour, a privilege and a hell of an experience. It’s not always sunshine and new friends, it can be difficult, tiring, scary and emotionally challenging. But it is also the most rewarding experience you could ever dare to imagine. My year as a student in Copenhagen, Denmark changed my life. No cliché, no marketing promo. It changed my life. I am a better person for my experience. I have a compassion and understanding for others and other cultures. I have an inner confidence that comes from knowing that I did something not everyone can do and I thrived. I love public speaking, crazy I know.

Coming from a small country town I could only dream of the incredibly rich and diverse cultural experience that awaited me. I travelled to beautiful cities and 12 different countries. I ate mountains of food from all cultures, and then some (8 extra kilos later I still didn’t regret a mouthful).  I couldn’t have prepared myself for how it would be going to gymnasium (high school) where I called my teachers by their first names, or that I would suddenly be so used to dressing for below freezing temperatures. There was no way I could comprehend that I would leave my exchange with friends I have to this day despite the vast distances between us. How could I have possibly known that I would have such wonderful host families that I love like my own and miss more and more as time goes by?

I get more homesick now for Denmark than I ever did for home when I was away. Rotary Youth Exchange is an opportunity of a lifetime for any young person and no other travelling experience or program could compare. So yes, I do get gushy and talkative when people ask about exchange, because I know that it is the best decision I ever made.

Kaye, sponsored by Boonah Rotary Club, hosted in Copenhagen, Denmark

Before I went on my exchange to Germany with Rotary in 2011, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had just finished school at the age of 17, so university didn’t seem like the best option. My parents approached me with the idea for an exchange year with Rotary, and after a lot of hesitation, I chose to go to Germany. This exchange year hugely benefited my life, in terms of my career choices, maturity, individuality, socially and culturally.

Being placed in the 3 most amazing, kind-hearted host families, I was able to experience a couple of weeks in the local hospital, simply following around my host fathers. This led to the pursuit of a career in helping people, so now I’m studying biomedical science at Griffith University.

Travelling to a foreign speaking country, and having to adapt to the cultures of my host family and Germany itself, I was provided with a newly developed sense of maturity, in having to deal with difficult situations by myself without the help of my parents, and having to overcome a language barrier. On the first day I was allowed to speak English, however from the second day onwards, my host parents spoke predominantly German, which was extremely daunting, but so beneficial, that after I left, I was fluent in German.

The best part of the exchange is the social aspect, both in the school, within host families, and especially the other exchange students in the district. With those other exchange students, we travelled Europe for 3 weeks, stayed in Berlin for a week, and went skiing in Austria! However diverse all the exchange students may be, you form so many special bonds, and everyone comes together with such ease. My year away was the most frightening thing I’ve ever done (to leave my home for a year) however, it was the best and most beneficial experience I could ask for, which has now significantly changed my aspect on life.

Lewis, sponsored by Ashmore Rotary Club, hosted by Idar-Oberstein Rotary Club, Germany