By Logan Johnson, Youth Exchange and Youth Protection Promotions and Engagement Specialist at Rotary International
A few years ago, volunteers of the Rotary Youth Exchange program were sending thousands of students around the globe each year to learn new languages, discover new cultures, and become global citizens. Then COVID-19 brought almost every aspect of the program to a screeching halt. Like many other aspects of Rotary, the program found new life online with virtual exchanges, which offered a safe alternative to in-person exchanges.
But many anticipated the return of in-person exchanges, and as of May 2022 in-person exchanges were planned and are happening worldwide for the first time in over two years!
By Randy Bretz, Rotary Club of Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
If you think there’s not much your local Rotary club can do to foster international relations, think again. I have some ideas for you that are relatively simple and can help establish positive relations not just among individuals but entire countries.
My club is located in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, home of the University of Nebraska. In fact, we have four universities and colleges in Lincoln. Each semester and often during the summer, these institutions host international scholars and students. Typically, people visiting or studying at a local institution are very interested in connecting with people in the community.
By Anniela Carracedo, member of the Rotary Club of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, USA, and a Rotary Youth Exchange Alumna
When I decided to become a Rotary Youth Exchange student, I had no idea how much it would change my life and the lives of everyone around me.
In 2017, I was invited to the Interact Club of Valencia, Venezuela, following my parents, who joined the Rotary Club of Valencia. I joined the club because I wanted to make a difference in my local community. I had seen Venezuela go from being one of the healthiest countries in Latin America to experiencing one of the worst humanitarian and economic crises in the modern world.
By Fernando Pinto Nercelles, member of the Rotary Club of Pehuén de Las Condes, Chile; District Alumni Committee Chair; and District Peace Fellowships Subcommittee Chair.
The last couple of years have been especially challenging for Rotary members, particularly for those of us in leadership positions in our clubs or districts.
My district’s Alumni Committee that I have led for some years has approached involving our alumni from a traditional perspective: through one-on-one and case-by-case contact. Interesting but insufficient.
Mia Henderson, 2019-20 Youth Exchange Student from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Madrid, Spain
When I was 16, Rotary offered me a chance to experience life beyond anything I had known before. After attending a meeting about Rotary Youth Exchange, I decided to apply to study in Spain.
It took months of hard work to prepare. But before I knew it, it was time to pack up my things and leave. I arrived for my 2019-20 exchange in an unfamiliar country, meeting people I didn’t know, who spoke a language I didn’t speak well. But even though this was my most difficult path yet, I was at peace.
Lindsay Griswold participates in a dance as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya in 2006.
Lindsay Griswold as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2006.
By Lindsay Griswold, Senior Specialist for Youth Exchange and Youth Protection I grew up in a home that was not peaceful. So, I think peace is something I have always unconsciously sought, in my life, work, hobbies, and other interests. The summer after I graduated from university, I joined the United States Peace Corps, and served as a Deaf Education Volunteer in Kenya. This experience changed me in too many ways to count, but the traits I gained then that I still value now are patience, flexibility, and resilience.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →