Western States Student Exchange, Inc.
Rotary International
Western States Rotary Districts:
5010, 5020, 5030, 5050, 5060, 5100, 5110, 5130
5150, 5160, 5170, 5180, 5220, 5230, 5400, 5470


Saturday, March 23 to Saturday, March 30, 2019
Western States Student Exchange (WESSEX) Hawaii Expedition

Saturday, April 6 to Saturday, April 13, 2019
New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D. C. Trip

Saturday, April 6 to Wednesday, April 10, 2019
New York City Trip
(Does Not Include Philadelphia or Washington, D.C.)

Organizer for above trips: Belo USA Travel
Website: www.belousa.com
Username: WESSEX
Password: EXPLORE

General information brochure: Belo Brochure
Registration: Student Application
Permission: Parental Permission

Saturday, June 15 to Sunday, June 30, 2019
Western Safari Sponsored by District 5130
Tour website: Western Safari Tour


  1. Am I eligible to be a Rotary exchange student?
  2. What is the long-term program?
  3. What is the short term program?
  4. Do I get to choose my country?
  5. Do I have to know another language?
  6. Will I get school credit for my exchange year?
  7. Is there any future advantage to being a Rotary Exchange Student?
  8. What if I have problems during my exchange?
  9. Do my parents have to host an inbound student?
  10. OK, bottom line, what does it cost?
  11. How do I apply?
  12. What else do I need to know?
  13. What if we just want to host an inbound student?
  14. What are the responsibilities of a host family?


Am I eligible to be a Rotary exchange student?

The Rotary Youth Exchange program is open to high school students, or those who have just graduated, between the ages of 15 and 18 on departure. It does not matter whether your parents are members of a Rotary Club - the program is open to children of Rotarians and non-Rotarians alike.

Exchange student candidates must be outgoing, self-confident, friendly, adaptable, and adventurous, willing to learn a foreign language, with above average grades in school. The application form will require you to tell about yourself and your family, and provide references from school teachers and administrators.

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What is the long-term program?

Rotary offers two types of exchanges for high school students. For a truly amazing, life-changing experience, there is nothing like the long-term exchange. Students spend a year in another country, becoming fluent in the language and immersed in the culture, and developing friendships that will last a lifetime.

Participants attend high school, and may or may not get credit back home for courses taken (but colleges often recognize the value of exchange programs, with credit for language ability and greater acceptance rates!). Each student will have up to four (or more) host families through the year, to broaden the experience and see the variations that exist in all cultures.

It takes a very special teen to consider him or herself capable of spending a year abroad, but the rewards and experiences are unlike anything you may ever know again. If you think you can do this, don't let the opportunity pass you by.

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What is the short-term program?

Interested in a taste of the world, and willing to share yours with others? Then the short-term program may be for you. Rotary's short-term exchange program usually takes place during the summer, and brings together paired families from different countries. Typically, you would spend 3-4 weeks overseas with a family that has a son or daughter of approximately the same age. And then, you and your new host sibling would come back to the US for a 3-4 week stay with your family (the order can be reversed, with the foreign student coming here first - whichever works best for the families is fine).

The short-term program does not generally include school attendance, and instead provides its educational experiences through exposure to a new language and culture. Naturally, the friendships that develop often last a long time, with repeat visits a very common occurrence.

For younger students, or perhaps those wanting to sample the experience before committing to the long-term program, Rotary's short-term exchange program can be ideal.

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Do I get to choose my country?

A very popular question. And the answer is, ... yes and no. For short-term exchanges, since they involve family-to-family reciprocal arrangements, we make every effort to accommodate country preferences. It may not always be possible to grant a student's first choice, but normally that can be done.

Long-term exchanges work differently, in that students from our exchange partners will be coming here for a year, and we have built relationships with these counterparts over many years. The countries we exchange with are those we know run top-quality programs, and we re-evaluate them each year. There are a limited number of exchanges available with each country, and we will not overload any country in either direction. The vast majority of students will get one of their top choices. But remember, flexibility is a vital characteristic for a successful exchange student, and that starts right at the beginning.

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Do I have to know another language?

No, not at all. Naturally, it would help to have some familiarity with the language of the country you go to, for either the short- or long-term program. But we don't limit the program to those who are already bi-lingual. In fact, one of the great benefits of the long-term program is quickly gaining fluency in another language. Typically, our students become fluent in 3-4 months, even without any previous knowledge of the language! But we strongly recommend that all participants start learning their target language as soon as they are selected for the program. The more of the language you know up front, the better your experience will be.

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Will I get school credit for my exchange year?

This is always a tough question because it varies from school to school and country to country. You should sit down with your school counselors when you apply and when you know what country you are going to for your year. Pre-planning makes a big difference. If you have question contact your Youth Exchange Officer or the District YE Chairman.

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Is there any future advantage to being a Rotary Exchange Student?

Yes! Past history has indicated that having the Rotary Exchange Year on your college application carries more weight in many cases than your GPA, class ranking, or even SAT or ACT score. Colleges are looking for students that are going to successfully complete their studies and graduate. By completing a full year exchange in another culture you are showing them that you have the "right stuff".  Future employers will take similar views of your year's experience, not to mention the benefits of becoming bi-lingual or bi-cultural!

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What if I have problems during my exchange?

The design of the Rotary Exchange program is such that if you have problems we have the resources to help you solve the problems, starting with a Rotary Club right in the community in which you are living. You will have multiple avenues of help available to you to resolve any problem that might come up.

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Do my parents have to host an inbound student?

For short-term exchanges, the answer is Yes. Those are family-to-family exchanges, and you will be paired with a foreign family that has a son or daughter of roughly your age. It is up to the two families to decide which student travels first.

For long-term exchanges, parents of outbound students are not required to host. Many, of course, choose to do so, partly because they have an empty room, but also so they can experience some of what their son or daughter is going through. We encourage that, but we also recognize that not all families are able to host. We do ask outbound students and their families to help find host families in their own communities, to accommodate the inbound student that will be hosted by their Rotary Club.

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OK, bottom line, what does it cost?

Probably a lot less than you think. You see, Rotarians are all volunteers, so there are no salaries or commissions paid to the people who administer this program. It does cost money, though, to make the arrangements, present the orientations, provide student materials and supplies, etc. And, of course, there's airfare, insurance, and other travel expenses. Here is a breakdown by program:

Long Term Program

If accepted, the cost for the Long Term (one year) program costs approximately $600 plus your round trip airfare. This covers Rotary-approved medical insurance, orientations, your Rotary blazer, pins, business cards, and other supplies. Each District collects the funds in different manners but the total cost is about $600 plus airfare. The cost is the same regardless of destination - that way, you can go to the country that you most desire and are best suited for. (Note: if you don't already have a passport, you will need to obtain one and possibly a visa, at your own expense).

In the Long Term Program, Rotary exchange students are provided with a monthly allowance from their host Rotary club. This is usually the equivalent of between $50 and $100 US, but may vary by location. If you want or need spending money beyond that, it is up to you and your parents to provide it. Of course, you do not have to pay for room and board, school fees, etc.

Long Term students are also required to deposit an Emergency Fund with their host Rotary Club. Usually $300, this money is there for unexpected expenses (medical, dental, telephone, etc.), and, if it is used during the year, it must be replenished by you or your parents. If it is not used, it is returned to you at the end of the year.

To summarize, then, the Long Term program costs are $600 in advance of departure, a $300 Emergency Fund to be taken with you, and whatever additional spending money you and your parents agree on.

Short Term Program

A refundable fee of $300 is due with the application. Upon acceptance into the program and assignment to a country, this fee will be used to cover the cost of Rotary-approved medical insurance, orientation activities, and supplies.

You and your parents are responsible for the cost of your airline ticket, as well as any visa or other travel documents that may be required (Note: if you don't already have a passport, you will need to obtain one, at your own expense). Additionally, you will need to bring spending money while abroad, and you and your family should budget appropriately for the time that you and your exchange partner are together here. Those costs, obviously, are variable and up to you to determine.

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How do I apply?

All applications must be sponsored by a local Rotary Club, so it's important that you make contact with a club in your area. If, however, you don't know a local Rotarian, or if you'd like help in this task, you can certainly complete our inquiry form. We will follow up with you, or refer you to someone in your area to get you on the right track.

Once you've decided to go ahead with it, you need to complete the full application, for whichever program you're interested in. We recommend that you use the on-line form, for the year-long application as you can just enter the basic information and print it out in a neat, orderly format. Otherwise, you'll need to contact your District to get a hard copy of the form and locate a typewriter to complete it. Read the instructions carefully, and follow them to the letter. If you have any questions, contact your local Youth Exchange Officer.

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What else do I need to know?

Well, you might want to take a look at the TenCommandments for Rotary Exchange Students.

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What if we just want to host an inbound student?

Rotary Clubs are always looking for potential host families. If you'd like to enrich your family's experience by bringing in a Rotary exchange student, contact your local Rotary Club, or complete our inquiry form. And thanks so much for your interest!

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What are the responsibilities of a host family?

To accept the exchange student as a new member of your family. The student will be governed not only by the rules of the program but by the rules of your household. You are responsible for the safety of the exchange student the same as for your own children. Although you might become a bit more of the soccer mom or dad for normal everyday activities, it is not your responsibility to act as a taxi service or a tour guide. Rotarians for the hosting club will be helping in these areas.

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