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Rotary Youth Exchange

Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) is a Rotary International student exchange program for students in secondary school. Since 1929, Rotary International has sent young people around the globe to experience new cultures. Currently, about 9,000 students are sponsored by Rotary clubs every year.



The Rotary Club of Copenhagen, Denmark initiated the first exchange in 1929. Rotary youth exchanges began in Europe and have spread world-wide. Typically, students are sent to another country for a year-long stay, allowing them to experience a completely different culture and (usually) language. The student typically lives with multiple host families during the year and is expected to perform daily tasks within the household as well as attend school in the host country. The number of host families can vary, but three is the most common number.


The Rotarians that participate in the program are volunteers. Many Rotarians are involved in various aspects of the youth exchange program including student selection, compliance with immigration and Rotary regulations, hosting, and supporting students. Each student is sponsored by a Rotary Club and Rotary District in their home country and is hosted by a Rotary Club and Rotary District in their host country. Most districts have a chair for the Rotary Youth Exchange program and some also have committees. Each Rotary Club that hosts a student provides a Rotarian counselor for the student who is the student's contact person within the club and provides support to the student when needed. Some districts are very active and host and send many students, other districts are less active and host fewer students.


Events for students vary from country to country and district to district, but exchange students may often be able to visit other parts of their host country and sometimes other countries while on exchange with their host families, schools, or Rotary. Many districts or multidistricts organize tours for the students they host, which may include weekend trips to nearby cities, tours of the host country that may last several weeks, and many students in Europe have the opportunity to take part in Eurotours which visit many countries and last two to four weeks. However, like most exchange programs, the primary purpose of Rotary Youth Exchange is cultural and academic exchange.


Today, many Rotary Exchange students can be recognized by their Rotary Youth Exchange blazer. While most countries recommend navy blue, the blazer may also be dark green, red, black, or maroon. The color of the blazer usually depends on which country or region the exchange student is from. One Rotary tradition is that students cover their blazers in pins and patches they have traded with other students or bought in places they have visited as evidence of their exchange. It is popular for the students to bring a large collection of national- or regional-themed pins and trade them with students from other areas. This tradition is popular worldwide.

Blazer colors by country:

  • Argentina - navy blue
  • Australia - green
  • Belgium - navy blue
  • Bermuda - black
  • Bolivia - navy blue
  • Brazil - blue
  • Canada - red/black/blue
  • Denmark - navy blue
  • Ecuador - navy blue
  • Finland -light blue
  • France - navy or light blue
  • Germany - blue
  • Hungary - navy blue
  • India - navy blue
  • Japan - navy blue
  • Mexico - navy blue/green/red
  • The Netherlands - navy blue
  • New Zealand - black
  • Norway - navy blue
  • Slovakia - navy blue
  • South Africa - green
  • South Korea - navy blue
  • Sweden - navy blue
  • Switzerland - bordeaux
  • Taiwan - navy blue (bright green in year 2006-2007. dark green since 2007-2008)
  • Thailand - navy blue/bordeaux
  • Turkey - black
  • United States - navy blue
  • Venezuela - navy blue
  • Zimbabwe - black

Application and Orientation Process


The selection process may vary by district and country, but most students apply to a Rotary Club in their hometown or a nearby town as the first step. The student will likely be interviewed by this Rotary Club and if this club agrees to sponsor the student, the student's application will be extensive, according to most students. It consists of 12-15 pages, and 4 exact copies which must each be signed in blue ink. The application asks for basic general information, medical history, dental history, principal or guidance counselor review, grades from the past 2 years, teacher recommendation, and personal questions answered by the student.

The student will likely go through another round of interviews at the district level before a final decision is reached. In some districts, there is a lot of competition for just a few spots. In other districts, there are more openings than applicants and in this case the district will likely accept all of those they feel are qualified and prepared.

The program is ideal for students who are intent on becoming fluent in another lanquage, learning a new culture on an intimate basis with 3-4 different families and being an ambassador for their country. This program is for students who are self motivated, friendly and outgoing, caring and smart. Students live with a number of families but they are not guests - they are expected to fit into the families normal daily routine.

If the student is accepted into the program, the youth exchange committee will assign them a host country and send the student's paperwork to that country. The student may or may not be guaranteed their first choice of country, therefore students who are set on a particular country may wish to look into other programs. The committee may take a variety of factors into consideration when making host country assignments, including the countries the student is most interested in, language skills, the number of students wanting to go to each country, and where the Rotarians feel is the best suited country for the student. Another way some districts decide on countries is a scoring interview. In these districts, if three students request France as their first choice and the district can only send one student to France, Rotarians may send the student that scored highest on their interview.

After the host country's youth exchange program receives the student's paperwork, they will assign the student to a host Rotary Club, who will arrange for host families and a host school for the student. The host club will get a variety of signatures on the paperwork and then send part of it back to the student's home Rotary as a guarantee of the student's placement. These forms are usually necessary for the student to receive a visa to stay in the host country. It is rare, but possible for a student to be assigned a host country and the host district to refuse the student. In this case, the student will usually be reassigned to a different country or part of the country.


Prior to leaving, most districts hold orientations for the students. These orientations usually include a variety of seminars and activities designed to prepare students for their exchanges. Topics covered usually include program rules, discussions with former exchange students about their experiences, and information about what students need to do before their departure. Students also learn about how to make a presentation about their home country and region, which they will usually be required to present to their hosting Rotary club and may be invited to present to other groups as well. Inbound exchange students may also participate in the orientations as well.

The rules discussed may vary somewhat, but the "4 D's" apply to all students regardless of home or host country. The 4 D's are the five most important Rotary exchange rules:

    1. No driving
    2. No drinking
    3. No dating
    4. No drugs

If a student breaks any of these rules, the student may be removed from the program.

-Sometimes an extra D will be added, such as "no debt." Also, there sometimes are the P,T and 2 extra S's, P meaning no pornography, and T meaning responsible use of technology and the two S's for no sex and no smoking. Also in Australia there is a 5th "D", which stands for "Don't get caught"


Exchange students that have not yet left for their host country are called "outbounds", those currently in their host countries are called "inbounds", and students who have returned from their exchange are called "rebounds" or "rotex".But the most "rotex" are refer to people who serving in the organization Rotex for helping exchangers. There is also the rare "yo-yo" - a student who has been on two exchanges. Other slang includes the terms "newbies" and "oldies". Due to the arrival of many of the southern hemisphere students in January and the northern hemisphere students in August, there is a group of students that are half a year behind or ahead of that current generation. A student from an older generation is an oldie and students from newer generation are newbies or newies. This half year delay can be helpful in mentoring the newer students into an exchange student's lifestyle. Another slang word that is used is "dinosaur", which can refers to one's oldie's oldie. Other terms include "Northie" and "Southie", referring to student from either a northern or southern (respectively) hemisphere country, which affects the time period that an exchanger will spend in their host country. A Southie will depart either January or February, staying in their host country until the beginning of the next year, while a Northie leaves in June or August and stays until the following summer.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Rotary_Youth_Exchange". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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