My Rotary Youth Exchange Experience

By Philip Edmonds

About 30 years ago as a member of the RC of Kogarah I served for 10 years on the District Youth Exchange Committee my last 3 years as Committee Chairman. The Committees work included selecting students for exchange, briefing them, arranging host districts, accepting incoming students, placing them with clubs, monitoring inbound students relationships with their clubs and host families, sending them on tours and arranging their attendance at district events and conferences. My wife and I have a network of youth exchange sons and daughters living in Finland, Norway, Denmark, Japan, France, USA, Argentina, Brazil and Austria.
I had regular contact and occasional meetings with my counterparts from other District Committee members.
An outstanding example of my Rotary experience arose from me taking a call from a YE district chairman in Tasmania. He said his district was hosting an outstanding student Romina from Argentina who had been hosted by a Club in a small Tasmanian town. Romina had expressed a wish to have an opportunity to stay in a major city for a few weeks before she returned to Argentina. I obtained a profile of the student and her contact details. I read Romina’s profile and my wife and I offered to host her in our home for the last month of her exchange. Romina proved a model exchange student before returning to Argentina. The following year my wife and I accepted an offer to chaperone a group of about 38 students going to Brazil and Argentina from eastern Australia. We travelled with the students to Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and about 6 other cities where we handed students over to representatives of host clubs. We visited the home of Romina In Cordoba.
We have maintained regular contact with many Rotarians and exchange students including Romina and her family. Romina married, has 4 children and lives in El Chalten in Patagonia at the foot of the Andes. In 2015 we visited Romina and her family and enjoyed a unique experience. We have also visited past students and Youth Exchange Committee members in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Brazil and Argentina.
The Youth Exchange experience has been a favourable life changing experience for the overwhelming majority of the students, councillors and Committee members. The few exceptions have been due to defects in the selection and management process. I endorse Rotary Youth Exchange, Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment and Rotary Youth Leadership Awards as the outstanding Rotary Programs.