It is an excellent program which thousands of students get a chance to do all around the world. You go to a country of your choice, stay with host families and attend a school for a year. And you don’t have to pay a crazy amount of money in order to do that. So you wanna know how? There are two institutions which are the best at running this program: AFS and Rotary Club. If you want to know more about AFS, you can click on the link I attached to the previous sentence. But here I will talk about my experience, which is Rotary Youth Exchange.
Who can go?
Students who are older than 15 and younger than 18 can apply to this program. You don’t have to have a Rotarian family in order to apply. However, you need a host Rotary Club. Also your family is expected to host an exchange student. Applications are made almost a year before. The next phase is the interview. What they want to know from this interview is that if you can stay in a new culture with people you don’t know away from your family and friends for almost a year. If you pass the interview, you get to know which city you will stay in and family you will be with in one of the countries that you chose. And then you will attend to this fun orientation camp. And finally, you will pack aaaaand the adventure begins!
So how about my adventure?
Even though it’s been years, it still feels like yesterday. If I had a chance to go back in time, I would do it all over again. So my exchange adventure started in 2005. Everything started with my interview. I don’t remember much but they asked me if I can stay away from my family that long. And I remember saying “I lost my father so separation for one year is nothing.”
After the interview, there was a fun orientation camp in Çanakkale. They gave us random topics before the camp and we made presentations there. And the reason for that was we were supposed to give presentations at our host Rotary Rotary Club meetings. At the camp, we learned all kinds of stuff about our exchange year. And we also had fun. I still have friends that I met at that camp.
Are there any rules?
Yes, of course there are rules that you need to obey in your host country. The most important rule is the 3D rule. “No drinking, no driving, no dating!” And the reason for this rule is that people who host you are responsible for your well being so we should help them by obeying the rules. And of course you have to obey your host country rules. In the case of failure to obey the rules, your exchange year will be terminated and you’ll be sent home.
Another rule is you have to attend the Rotary meetings once a month. For example, I used to go the first Friday of every month. It was in the mornings and we had breakfast. After the meeting, everybody was going to work and I was going to school. I can’t say I was a fan of those really early meetings 😀 I also made two presentations at the meetings. For the first presentation, I introduced myself and my country at the beginning of my exchange year. And for the second presentation, I told my exchange year experiences at the end of my exhange year.
Of course there are more rules but I wanted to mention the most important ones. For more info, you can check this page: Rotary Youth Exhanges
What are the advantages of Youth Exchange Program?
- I can definitely say that you will become a completely different person when you come back. It is hard to describe with words. Everything about you will change from your appearance to your perspective. (For example you may gain 10 kgs 😀 )
- You will learn to stand on your own feet. You will learn how to be responsible. And this person who you transform into will give you self confidence. You will be proud of your success.
- You will contribute to world peace without even realizing. You will learn about other cultures and introduce your own. You will become free from prejudices.
- You will have friends from all over the world and these friendships are forever. And if you get a chance to meet after years, it’ll be like you were never apart.
- Whichever exchange student you ask, in someway or another, they will say this: “It was the best year of my life.” After your exchange year is done, you will cry more than you did when you were leaving your country. I’ve always thought this: They taught us almost everything about our exchange year at the orientation camp but they never told us that the hardest part of the exchange year is going back home. You can see our swollen eyes from crying below.
I wanted to tell you a little about Youth Exchange Program. Well, it wasn’t that little but I can keep talking about this topic forever. You can always contact me if you have any questions. I’ll go into detail in the following posts.
Thanks for reading! 🙂