October – November 2023 | Features

Youth Exchange Bounces Back

Youth Exchange Bounces Back

Di King, Multidistrict Chair for Youth Exchange in Rotary Great Britain & Ireland, explains how this initiative is breathing new life again.

Rotary Youth Exchange in Great Britain & Ireland is back in business, having shaken away the doubts and fears of the post-COVID years.

We have been recruiting for participants since September 1st, and students are finding their way to the website youthexchange.org.uk to register their interest in exchanges next summer.

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Anyone of the appropriate age and motivation has until the end of December to register and be interviewed by a Rotary club.

Those successful at interview are usually in the upper end of the ability range, already self-reliant and capable of making the most of the experience.

They may have a Rotary family connection or not. The process leading towards the exchange continues until the departure date but without interfering with the student’s study time.

There are two very different options to choose from.

International camps offer those aged between 15 to 30-years-old a choice of about 100 themed camps, organised by Rotarians across Europe and beyond.

Participants join an international group to take part in a range of cultural or outdoor activities, some quite challenging. They can learn new skills, making friendships which often last for years.

Our newest alumni have returned from their exchanges with confidence boosted and a strong sense of purpose.”

Alternatively, the Short-Term Exchange Programme (STEP) accepts 15 to 17-year-olds for a six-week exchange, where they are paired with an overseas student having similar interests.

They spend half of that time in each other’s home, living as a member of the family rather than a guest and soaking in the local culture.

It is said those who act as a host often see their own culture in a different light and their mothers remark how helpful they have become at home! Participants can justifiably describe their Rotary experience as life-changing and are keen to give back.

Someone eager to register their interest this year was a recent RYLA participant who heard about the Rotary Youth Exchange through their Rotary club.

Two 17-year-old Interactors have just returned from camps in Egypt and Turkey and are keen to tell everyone about their experiences, particularly club members.

Why, they ask, do so few from other youth programmes in Great Britain & Ireland take part in the Youth Exchange when it is almost automatic in other countries? They will be doing what they can to raise awareness and encourage more participation across all our districts.

Our newest alumni have returned from their exchanges with confidence boosted and a strong sense of purpose.

They came together forged by an unlikely alliance between Covid and Zoom and are forming a Youth Exchange Alumni Network. Their brief is to support our District Youth Exchange Officers, rebuilding the programme to establish continuity which is vital for Youth Exchange to thrive.

To find out more about Rotary Youth Exchange, visit the official website or get in touch via email.

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