By Viktorija Trimbel, District 1462 (Lithuania) Youth Exchange Chair, and Governor nominee for 2020-2021
Days before the Rotary Convention, over 500 Youth Exchange Officers (YEOs) from all over the world get together to learn and share best practices. The YEO Preconvention is my favorite Rotary meeting. From my past experience, I have found the challenges of youth exchange are pretty universal – selecting students, overseeing behavior, finding host families, and involving Rotary clubs. It is very interesting to learn solutions from other districts.
I believe that personal networking with YEOs from partner countries is one of the main pillars of running successful Youth Exchange programs. Knowing your foreign exchange partners personally makes it so much easier to handle any potential issues. You understand their point of view, can find the right approach to convey your message, trust their decisions, especially for early returns, and effectively communicate with parents and students.
My district implemented a policy to send one or two YEOs to international meetings every year. The district budgets for this as an investment in the program. Attending these meetings is a part of the officer’s responsibility, not a free vacation. Many officers choose to invite family members or extend their trip to travel on their own expense.
Additionally, we send YEOs to the preconvention to expand the geographic reach of our partnerships. For example, we had potential participants who already spoke Japanese and we were keen to establish exchange with Japan. Therefore, the YEO Preconvention in Seoul was a perfect opportunity to build networks with nearby countries.
In general, the YEO Preconvention stands out among any other conferences because of the atmosphere and people attending. Volunteering to be a Youth Exchange Officer means you are a special kind of youthful and cheerful personality, enjoy cultural differences, and readily handle any issues in life. Attending the YEO Preconvention is like seeing 250 friends again and making 250 new, lasting friendships. You immediately feel welcome and can connect on so many aspects from your personal experience.
I can’t wait to see you all in Hamburg!