Rotary Youth Exchange is one of Rotary’s most popular programs to promote international understanding and develop lifelong friendships. It began in 1927 with the Rotary Club of Nice, France. In 1939 an extensive Youth Exchange was created between California and Latin America. Since then the program has expanded around the world. In recent years more than 8,000 young people have participated annually in Rotary-sponsored exchange programs.
The values of Youth Exchange are experienced not only by the high school-age students involved, but also by the host families, sponsoring clubs, receiving high schools and the entire community. Youth Exchange participants usually provide their fellow students in their host schools with excellent opportunities to learn about customs, languages, traditions and family life in another country. Youth Exchange offers young people interesting opportunities and rich experiences to see another part of the world. Students usually spend a full academic year abroad, although some clubs and districts sponsor short term exchanges of several weeks or months.
Approximately 36 percent of Rotary Youth Exchange students are hosted or sent by the clubs in the United States and Canada. European countries account for about 40 percent, and 12 percent come from Australia and New Zealand. Asian clubs sponsor 5 percent, and 7 percent come from Latin American countries. Over 70 percent of all Rotary districts participate in Youth Exchange activities.