Youth ExchangeExposure to different cultures ranks as one of the most powerful ways to promote international understanding and peace. The Rotary Youth Exchange program provides thousands of young students with the opportunity to meet people from other countries and to experience new cultures, planting the seeds for a lifetime of international understanding.

The program offers numerous benefits to its young participants and their Rotarian hosts and mentors, as well as to the community at large. Through Youth Exchange, students learn firsthand about all aspects of life in another country. As their concept of the world expands, they mature and develop a deeper understanding of themselves. Immersion in another country’s educational system enhances their academic and personal growth. Host clubs and families and the entire community are enriched by extended, friendly contact with someone from a different culture.

We welcome boys and girls between the ages of 15.5 and 18 to come study and be a part of our community in District 6400.

District 6400 coordinates Long-term exchanges in conjunction with Central States Rotary Youth Exchange.  These exchanges usually last one year, during which the student lives with more than one family in the host country and is required to attend school there. Long-term exchanges may be extended to include part or all of the holiday/vacation periods immediately before and after the academic year.

YE Committee  District Contacts
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District Chairman (Canada) – Chuck Parsons

District Chairman (U.S.) – Paul Sincock

U.S. Inbound Coordinator – Jerry Richardson

Canada Inbound Coordinator – Tania Muscedere

District Youth Protection Officer – DG Sue Goldsen

Events Chairperson – Traci Sincock

Outbound Coordinator (Canada) – Wendy Parsons

Outbound Coordinator (U.S.) – D.J. Boyd / Shannon Boyd

YEAH Trainer/Youth Advisor – Niklas Pizzolitto

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.

Niset addresses a Rotary club.

I come from a small village in rural Belgium and the exchange is a unique chance to accomplish something bigger than myself. To be selected as an ambassador for Rotary and my country meant being the custodian of national values and beliefs.

Sometimes, the mission was easy. I brought happiness to people by making countless Belgian waffles. I presented facts about my homeland to my host club and community. But going deeper, and sharing what makes people from my country unique, explaining why we think and behave differently, without judging, is harder. There is not just one way to do things, and one way isn’t better than another, just different.

At my first orientation with the other exchange students in Alaska, our coordinator told us that the Rotary Youth Exchange motto was to “Make peace in the world, one student at a time.” I only understood the real meaning of this sentence later in my exchange.

Terrorist attack

On 22 March, Belgium became the target of a terrorist attack. I saw the last place I had been in my country, the airport, blown up by people who didn’t understand differences. I saw a symbol of globalization exploded and my beliefs harmed. I had a friend from France, two from Indonesia, one from Germany. All of them felt the weight of terrorism. It oppresses you, makes you fearful, sad, and angry.

How in a world interconnected, multicultural, and full of exchange students, can terrorist attacks still happen?

But then it suddenly made sense to me why I was on exchange at this time. I realized how I could explain the values my country stands for, and show how Rotary members and exchange students can work together to help solve the world’s problems. Rotary members already have a drive to change the world. Exchange students promote tolerance and respect.

Thanks to my exchange, I had the opportunity to share my values, my beliefs, my identity. I try to make the world stronger, one speech at a time, and am inspired to strive for greater things.

This is the power of Rotary Youth Exchange. And it can be the pride of Rotary, too.

Learn more about exchange opportunities through Rotary

Do you have a Rotary Youth Exchange story?

If you have a story from your year abroad, if your experience as a member of a host family changed your life, if you met new friends and professional connections through your alumni association, tell us about it! Send your story to youthexchange@rotary.org. It could be featured in this newsletter or on the Rotary Voices blog.