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

First outbound Rotary Youth Exchange from Nepal

Seema Tamang, third from left, with other Rotary Youth Exchange students

By Seema Tamang, Rotary Youth Exchange student from Kathmandu, Nepal

During the 2016-17 school year, I was thrilled to be the first outbound exchange student from Nepal. Being blind, I have to admit I was a bit scared at first, as home life in the US was much different than in Nepal. I was used to sleeping in the same room with my sisters and with other girls in the dormitory at school. With my host family, I had my own room. But it did not take long to adapt, and enjoy an amazing experience during which I grew in many ways. Continue reading

What you may not know about an outbound-only youth exchange

The Rotary Youth Exchange students from Macau.

By Eric Cowcill, governor-elect of District 1285

The Rotary clubs of Sandbach, United Kingdom, and Macau have worked together for several years to provide opportunities for Macau youth to attend the annual District 1285 Summer Camp in northwest England. This year Macau Rotarians were ready to expand opportunities for young people and together we embarked on creating a short-term exchange.

Our simple idea turned into a huge success! This summer, nine 16 year-old students and two teachers from St Paul’s School, Macau, arrived in the UK for a visit. Continue reading

A larger than life youth exchange experience

Youth Exchange Students on European Tour

Youth Exchange Students take part in a year-end European Tour.

By Joel Dzuba, Rotary Exchange Student from Ontario, Canada, to Lower Saxony, Germany

It would be impossible to pick a favourite memory from my exchange in Germany due to the sheer number of opportunities I had and dreams I lived. From sailing in the Baltic Sea, to walking in the North Sea, to swimming in the Mediterranean, there are simply too many experiences to pick a favourite. Continue reading

Rotary Youth Exchange gave me hope for peace

Kate Roff

Kate Roff

By Kate Roff, a former Rotary Youth Exchange student

Being lost in the middle of the bustling, hazy, city of Bangkok, Thailand, is not ideal for a 17-year-old Australian girl. But, it was a moment that changed my life.

I was on Rotary Youth Exchange and despite excellent instructions from my caring host-family; I had no idea how the intricate bus system worked, and hadn’t mastered the language yet to ask. After boarding the wrong bus for the third time, Continue reading

Rotary is a family that unites

Wilson in South Africa

Mark Wilson during his Rotary Youth Exchange in South Africa.

By Mark Wilson, Rotary Club of London

After a long flight from London, I arrived in Durban, South Africa, in 2011 to begin a short-term Rotary Youth Exchange, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Canterbury Sunrise and hosted by Westville Rotary. I did not know what or who would be greeting me, so I had a bit of anxiety which I can clearly remember to this day. Continue reading

When I give to Rotary, I get so much more back

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Stephanie Witkowski, middle in blue shirt, during her Rotary Youth Exchange in Slovakia. 

By Stephanie Witkowski, Rotary Club of Honolulu Pau Hana

At 28 years old, I decided to become a Rotarian, because Rotary changed my life.

I grew up in a small town in Oregon, USA, and was a young leader in my school. When I was 15 years old, I applied to attend a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards event in Rotary’s District 5110 to learn more about myself and what leadership meant to me. During that amazing week-long experience, I learned not only about how to be a better leader for my school and community, but about Rotary itself.  Continue reading

Making peace, one exchange student at a time

Belgian Exchange Student Marcellin Niset in Alaska

Belgian Exchange Student Marcellin Niset in Alaska

By Marcellin Niset, Rotary Youth Exchange Student from Belgium to Alaska

The Italian-American author and actress Vanna Bonta wrote, “There’s no hospitality like understanding.” That quote stuck with me as a Rotary Youth Exchange student to Alaska in 2015-16. I arrived in Alaska, a wilderness filled with beauty and love, determined to make my exchange purposeful and beneficial for myself, my host community, and the world.

An exchange is not only about a student going abroad, it is about all the people that make this exchange possible, and the ones that are impacted, directly and indirectly. Continue reading