The following is not intended to replace established Rotary Youth Exchange rules or guidelines but to offer suggestions and answer some questions that will possibly create a better experience for both the student and the host families.
During the entire year, your Rotary Youth Exchange Officer (RYEO) and counselor will be involved and available to answer questions and provide any assistance.
If in doubt, ask.
First Host Family:
- As soon as contact information is available begin and continue communication with your student, at least every two weeks, more often as their arrival nears. Email, phone, Skype, or FaceTime with your inbound. Send pictures, discuss activities and plans, talk about the weather and your school and community events. Make them feel welcome, comfortable, and at least a little connected with their new home. It’s a scary adventure for them.
- If you can, try to involve other students who will be in their school in these early conversations, to give them an early start on forming friendships.
- Copy your Rotary Youth Exchange Officer (RYEO) on communications so he or she remains informed and can help coordinate.
- Take a few minutes and read the CultureGram provided to you at your orientation to become familiar with your student’s home country and to be aware of any differences they will be bringing into your home.
- After arrival:
- Treat them like a family member, no more and no less; they want to be part of your family.
- First Night Questions (available on the website) cover a lot of areas, and answer a lot of questions (it doesn’t have to be the very first night but soon after they arrive … they expect it). Try them first in English, if that doesn’t work there is a translated version.
- Make sure that their important papers (passport, visa, return reservation, medical papers, etc.) are in a single safe location. Do not take possession of them; they must be retained by the student.
- As soon as they are comfortable there are things that need to be done:
- Talk with your RYEO to plan a meeting with school for enrollment and class selection.
- Have the RYEO or counselor explain how to track your student’s academic progress and attendance on-line. Routinely track their progress to ensure they are not experiencing difficulties; it’s better to catch problems early on so we can make corrections.
- Determine what their special interests are (dance, sports, clubs, social, etc.) and attempt to coordinate and provide opportunities within the school and community.
- Acquire a cellphone for necessary communication only, and ensure they know how to use it. Make sure they understand charges and how to pay for their use.
- Host or coordinate some sort of a welcome event; casual, simple, nothing fancy. Attempt to include their peers; fellow students, neighbor kids, other inbounds,etc. However, don’t do this on the very first day after their arrival — it’s too overwhelming after they’ve been traveling for 20-30 hours!
- Many will become involved in sports and extra-curricular activities; they are here to experience as much as they can in a relatively short period. Support them as best you can with transportation, attending events, etc. If there are additional fees, they should be covered by the student or Rotary Club.
Second Host Family:
- After the student is completely settled with their first host family then begin to become part of their experience. Don’t overwhelm them at first but as the time for their move to you approaches interact with them; have dinner, attend something, have them over to see their new home and meet the family, get to know them. You will both feel more comfortable.
- After they have moved to your home, contact the school to let them know the student is living with you and become informed as to their academic progress. Have your RYEO explain how to track your student’s academic progress and attendance on-line.
- Anything under the First Host Family that might be appropriate.
- Find out what they have become involved with and plan to support them.
- This hosting period is sometimes the most challenging. The excitement and newness has worn off, language differences have become less challenging, and winter is here. Allow them to experience some things they wouldn’t at home (ski, hike, snowmobile, etc.).
Third Host Family:
- Again, after they are completely settled with their second host family then begin to be part of their experience. Don’t overwhelm them at first but as the time for their move to your home approaches interact with them; have dinner, attend something, have them over to see their new home and meet the family, get to know them. You will both feel more comfortable.
- After they have moved to you contact the school to let them know the student is living with you and become informed as to their academic progress. Have your RYEO explain how to track your student’s academic progress and attendance on-line.
- Anything under the previous host families that might be appropriate.
- During this period they will be expected to make a presentation (usually PowerPoint) to the Rotary club highlighting their experiences, and this will be the basis for their presentation when they return home. Nudge them along to compile a great presentation.
- The third hosting is varied and unique; some cruise on through, some have a difficult time. The language barrier is gone, they feel comfortable and at home, they have made friends, but the end of their year is in sight and they anxiously want to do everything. They are often sad at the prospect of their year ending.
- As the school year nears an end confirm with their high school counselor as to whether they are on track to participate in the graduation activities. They have made many friends and should be involved in the excitement. Even though they may be considered a Junior they are sometimes allowed to “march” at commencement, please check on this. Their participation in graduation is not guaranteed but determined on an individual basis considering grade status (Junior-Senior), social group, extra-curricular activities, etc.
- Talk with the RYEO about a farewell social activity for them; whatever you think they would like. Remember that this has been the adventure of a lifetime and deserves celebration.
- Remain flexible, they are teenagers and come from a different culture. Although generally mature they still need parental guidance, sometimes a lot.
- Review the Travel Guidelines – available on the website
- When your hosting period is over, no matter how close you have become to the student, it is time to let them move to their next family. Remain in contact and involved but let the next family have the opportunity to develop the same relationship. It’s what the program is all about.
- The Rotary Club will provide a stipend to the student of about $75 to $100 per month, which the student should use for on-going personal expenses, including but not limited to: entertainment (movies, recreation, dates, etc.); clothing; personal hygiene supplies; etc.
- The understood and accepted minimum cost to the host families is limited to room and board and the cost of providing local transportation. Many host families absorb additional costs at their own discretion: family trips, weekend adventures, restaurant meals, holiday/birthday gifts, etc.
- If the student is from a warm climate they will probably not have clothes suitable for our winter. They may want to purchase some at their expense but it is much wiser to borrow them. Ask the RYEO for help in this regard.
- The student will usually have a credit card; if it doesn’t work well in our ATM system ask the RYEO for assistance.
- The student will have the opportunity to take extended Rotary sponsored tours (Florida, New York City, Colorado, Hawaii, and East/West Coast tours). The cost of these tours is their own responsibility. For tour details, go here.
- There is a major RYE conference (1,200+ in attendance) in Grand Rapids, Michigan in mid-July; many extend their stay to attend this. The students are provided transportation to and from the conference by charter bus from gateway cities.
- Occasionally host families have been approached to provide a loan while waiting for funds to arrive. Loaning money to students is discouraged, and is entirely at the discretion of the host family. Consult with the RYEO if this becomes an issue.
- A form authorizing medical treatment signed by the student’s parents or guardian and RYE insurance documents are provided in the brief book. The student has an insurance ID card that was given to them at the August orientation, and they’ve been instructed to carry their insurance card with them at all times. As their host parent, make sure you know where their insurance paperwork is at all times in the event of an emergency.
- Host families should not sign any insurance paperwork or commit to any medical payment obligations. Turn those responsibilities over to the RYE Officer and your local Rotary Club.
Rotary District Schedule:
- There are a number of Rotary Conferences for our Inbound students: (Specific dates are on the District RYE Calendar)
- August orientation, shortly after arrival
- October and February RYE District conferences
- “Love is International” Inbound conference in Wausau in January
- Rotary District Governor’s Conference in May
- The Central States multi-district conference is held in early July and is a highlight of the year for many students
Transportation will be arranged by the RYE officer for all of these activities, although you may be asked to assist.
The most difficult part of hosting an Exchange Student is that eventually we have to say goodbye, as in most cases these students have quickly become a part of our families. The most rewarding part is knowing that you have become part of their lives and that they will never forget this year and the families that opened their homes to them.
Thank you for becoming part of their memories.