What is Rotary Youth Exchange?

Rotary Youth Exchange is for high school aged students who are interested in living and studying in a foreign country for one year. Its goal is to promote the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace at the person-to-person level.

What you will experience as a Rotary Exchange Student:

  • Learn a new culture and language
  • Attend a high school for one school year in a foreign country
  • Being an ambassador of your country and hometown
  • Making lifelong friends from different countries and cultures
  • Unfathomable adventures of all kinds
  • Personal growth and maturity beyond your years


Past exchange students overwhelmingly refer to their exchange experience as “The best year of my life.”

But don’t take our word for it.  Go to YouTube and search on Rotary Youth Exchange Program where you will find hundreds of videos posted by Rotary exchange students.


Exchange Student

Ten minutes that could change your life!

Watch this short, 10-minute video that is a good introduction to what it is like to be a Rotary Youth Exchange Student.

Clicking the image will open the YouTube video in a new tab.


Quick Overview…

It is not a vacation…instead it’s a cultural and academic exchange that lasts a full school year (11-12 months.) While on exchange you will have the opportunity to learn the language and culture of your host country.

While in your host country you will attend school, be hosted by 2 to 4 host families and be supported by the local Rotary club and a Rotarian counselor.  You will also maintain regular contact with your Rotarian counselor here in the Olympia area. 


You must be at least 16 years old by September 30 and cannot have turned 18 years old before September 30 in the year in which you leave on exchange.  Additionally, you cannot have graduated from high school. To qualify, applicants should be above-average students who have demonstrated leadership in their community. Candidates should also possess qualities such as flexibility and a willingness to try new things that will enable them to fully experience life in another country and become excellent cultural ambassadors.

The Process & How to Apply:

In June and in September, in-person informational sessions will be held in Olympia for interested students and parents.  These in-person sessions will be conducted by Rotarians and will give you the chance to learn all about the program and to have your questions answered.  Details on the date, time, and location of these events will be posted here as the information becomes available.  Please bookmark this page so you can check it later.

There is an application process. Formal applications are due no later than September 30, 2024 for exchanges starting in August 2025 and running through July 2026.  A link to the application will be posted here at a later date.

In early October 2024 in-person interviews will be conducted for all students who have completed applications.  Soon after these interviews you will be notified as to whether you have been selected to be an exchange student or not.  If selected, there are more steps to completing the application and then in early December there will be another in-person interview by the District 5020 Youth Exchange Committee.  After this interview your exchange will be confirmed.  Exchanges will commence in August 2025.

If you would like to receive an email from us as more information becomes available please drop us a note at spsrye@dacdb.com and we will add you to our mailing list.

Where Can I Go?

We exchange with over 40 Rotary districts in over 25 countries*, including:

Argentina Austria Belgium Brazil
Chile Colombia Croatia Czech Republic
Denmark Ecuador Estonia Finland
France Germany Hungary Indonesia
Italy Japan Mexico Netherlands
Norway Paraguay Poland Slovakia
Spain Sweden Switzerland Taiwan
Thailand And more...    


*Each year the countries differ but the countries listed above are countries we frequently exchange with.

When applying, you indicate which countries interest you the most and we attempt to place you in one of them. Unfortunately, due to the nature of our program we cannot guarantee that you will be placed in a specific country.

How Much Does It Cost?

The program is completely administered by Rotary club members, keeping program expenses low. Rotary Clubs in the host country are responsible for school tuition, accommodation and food, and a modest monthly allowance (generally around $100 / month) which can be worth up to $24,000. Typically, students and their parents or guardians are expected to cover an estimated $7,000-$10,000 expenses that are not covered by the scholarship which include:

  • Round-trip airfare
  • Travel insurance that includes medical, accident, and illness coverage and meets the requirements of the host and sponsor clubs and districts.
  • All travel documents, such as passports and visas
  • Spending money (over and above the monthly allowance provided by the host Rotary club), ancillary travel, and tours
  • Language camp (in some host countries) or other cultural orientation sessions
  • Emergency fund for unexpected expenses during the year

If you are interested in being a Rotary Exchange student, we do not want the cost to be a barrier.  We always strive to select the best, most qualified candidate.  If that is you and the costs are prohibitive we will do our best to provide financial assistance.  We encourage all interested students to apply.

Why Rotary?

Rotary Youth Exchange became an official pilar of Rotary International back in 1972.   The Rotary Youth Exchange program is unique in that it is NOT a business.  Rotarians are volunteers in your community that believe in the program’s mission to bring about world peace through personal relationships developed by the students we send abroad and the foreign students we host in our community.

Rotary maintains the highest standards of safety for our exchange students.  A student’s wellbeing is managed by a large team of Rotarians including the host club in the Olympia area, Rotary District 5020 country counselor, the Rotary district in the receiving country, the host Rotary club in the foreign country, and the student’s counselor from the host Rotary club.

With Rotary, you are not on your own.  As a Rotary Exchange Student you are one of 20 to 40 students Rotary District 5020 (Vancouver Island, the Olympic Peninsula, and parts of Western Washington) sponsors each year.  You will meet all these other students at a multi-day orientation program prior to your departure and at a post-exchange reorientation program.  Meeting and making friends with others going through the same experience as you is invaluable.

Likewise, in your destination country there will be many other Rotary exchange students from all over the world in your Rotary district there.  Throughout the year abroad, the Rotary district there will sponsor activities and trips for all the Rotary Exchange Students in the district.  These experiences are often mentioned by past exchange students as highlights of their year abroad.  You will undoubtedly make lifelong friends from all over the world.  

Key reasons to consider Rotary include:

  • Orientation & training process before you leave.
  • Hosted by a Rotary Club and Host Families.
  • Activities and trips with Rotary, Rotarians, and fellow exchange students.
  • Flights, medical insurance, visas, well-vetted host families, school admission, and much more are all arranged by Rotary.
  • Low cost. Rotarians are all volunteers, donating their time keeping costs down.
  • Rebound Retreat upon return from your year abroad with all other returning exchange students in District 5020.

More Info…

For more information, send an email to South Puget Sound Rotary Club’s Youth Exchange Officer at spsrye@dacdb.com.  We welcome your correspondence.

Links and Resources:

Rotary Youth Exchange Program District 5020 Website

Rotary International

Rotary International Youth Exchange

North American Youth Exchange Network