Returning home again: How Rotary Youth Exchange builds resilience

Julia and host father

Julia Chalifoux (right), a member of her host family (center), and a fellow Rotary Youth Exchange student at the Big Buddha statue in Kamakura, Japan, in 1997.

By Julia Chalifoux, former Rotary Youth Exchange student to Japan

In 1997, at 17 years old, I spent a year living and learning in Tokyo, Japan, as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student.

Thanks to Rotary International, my time in Japan afforded me the opportunity to open my heart, mind, and eyes to a new language, land, and culture; all of this has had a profound and subtle impact and influence on the woman I am today.

In the months leading up to my exchange, I prepared myself for a year abroad, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the post-exchange experience – how returning ‘home’ again to my country of origin would also have an impact. Continue reading

Rotary Youth Exchange expanded my view of the world

The author, third from left, on her Rotary Youth Exchange in Thunder Bay, Canada.

By Xolisile Sithole, former Rotary Youth Exchange student to Canada

It has been more than eight years since I embarked on a Rotary Youth Exchange to Thunder Bay, Canada, from South Africa. In many ways, it still seems like yesterday. It was an incredibly big year for me, having finished high school and qualified for university, and It remains one of my most treasured memories. Continue reading

Mt. Pleasant to Munich: a Rotary Youth Exchange journey

Eva and Tara

Eva (Breuer) Stahl and Tara Nicoll in the Mecuris showroom with 3D-printed pediatric feet.

By Tara Nicoll

Mt. Pleasant, Pa., USA

Had it not been for my Rotary Youth Exchange to Munich, Germany, in 1994-95, I am positive that I would not be where I am now: Living and pursuing a career in global business development at an innovative German medtech startup. I work with another former Rotary Youth Exchange student, Eva, who happens to be my best friend from my exchange year.

The later challenges of working life in Japan and Argentina would have been impossible without the experience of being thrown into strange daily life situations with just a dictionary and persistence. Continue reading

Why I love YEO Preconvention

Viktorija Trimbel and her daughter, Gabija, a 2010 Rotary Youth Exchange student.

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. Continue reading

Rotary Youth Exchange: key to global citizenship

Marie and classmates

Marie Tornquist and her Brazilian classmates during her Rotary Youth Exchange

By Marie Tornquist, former Rotary Youth Exchange student from Minnesota, USA, to Brazil

On the first day of my Rotary Youth Exchange orientation in a Minneapolis suburb, I remember being confused about the nationality of my country officer. She kept referring to herself as Brazilian, saying things like, “In Brazil we eat a lot of rice and beans,” and, “We (Brazilians) are very open people.” She also referred to her Brazilian host families as “my brother, Eduardo,” “my nieces and nephews,” etc. I wondered if she had somehow been placed with a host family that was a distant relative. After a while I realized that ever since her exchange, she has continued to identify with the Brazilian culture while at the same time living in the U.S. and maintaining her identity as an American. Continue reading

MusiCamp breaks down barriers one student at a time

By Sharon Bay, a member of the Downtown Breakfast Rotary Club of San Diego, California, USA

I had only been a Rotarian for a year, and was eager for another opportunity to serve, when I was asked by the committee chair of District 5340’s MusiCamp Youth Exchange if I would be interested in hosting two talented musical students for three weeks that summer. My husband and I had hosted an exchange student from Bolivia several years prior and had enjoyed the experience. This would only be for three weeks, and we felt we knew what to expect, so we enthusiastically said yes. Continue reading

Rotary Youth Exchange changes lives

Dave White

Editor’s note: This is the fifth and last in a series of blog posts from the 2018 Youth Leadership All-Stars, participants in Rotary’s programs for young leaders, in celebration of Youth Service Month.

By Dave White, Rotary Club of Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada

I was inspired to become involved in the Rotary Youth Exchange program in the 1980s while I was a secondary school principal and the school hosted our first international exchange student. A young lady, an Inbound Exchange student from South Africa, spent the year at our school. She had never been taught by a non-white teacher and had some hesitations about attending his classes. The trepidations soon disappeared. She grew to know and respect the teacher as a person and thoroughly enjoyed his classes. Continue reading

The opportunity that changed my life

Jireh Mabamba, second from left, with members of Rotaract in Minnesota.

By Jireh Mabamba

Sometimes, all you need is a chance – that one opportunity of a lifetime. Rotary gave me that chance.

I grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where human life has little value. Children are taken from their families and forced into the army, women are raped daily, and men are killed in front of their loved ones. Massacre is the norm. The only way to survive this brutal environment is to flee the country, and when I was nine, that’s what my family and I did. Continue reading

Rotary’s amazing capacity to bring people together

Exchange students from District 6990 get together.

By Gabriel de Jesus Abade, former Rotary Youth Exchange Student

When I was 16, like most teenagers, I was focused on my own life. I hadn’t really thought about joining a service club or dedicating myself to helping others. But that changed when a high school friend began talking to me about Rotary, and its local and global actions. I was captivated and wanted to learn more. Continue reading

Youth Exchange alumni give back through Rotex

Members of the District 1800 Rotex at the 2017 Rotary Convention in Atlanta.

By Sophie Richter, 2012-13 Rotary Youth Exchange Student

As a Rotary Youth Exchange Student, I spent a year in Thailand. This experience changed my life and my view of the world. When I returned to Germany, I wanted to give something back to Rotary because of how incredibly thankful I was for the opportunity I had been given. Joining our district’s Rotex club was my way of doing that. Continue reading