Virtual Exchange
Joel Jackson, former Youth Exchange student from Australia

“Before, I would never be able to make a conversation with a person I didn’t know. Now, I can proudly say it isn’t like that anymore"

What is Rotary Virtual Exchange?

This Rotary sponsored program is a unique opportunity for a Canadian student to meet a student from a foreign country in a virtual, online exchange. Both students get to meet online in a planned environment where they can learn about one another and share their cultures, school life and their activities etc. Currently, this program is open to students between the ages of 15 and 18.

As the exchange is virtual, it opens the door to a cultural exchange to those students who by choice or circumstance do not wish to take part in a short-term or long-term exchange.

What Can I Expect from the Exchange?

Students will improve their cultural understanding, gain leadership skills, learn a few key phrases in another language while forming international friendships. Through virtual meet ups, students will take part in a variety of activities that will be fun as well as informative.

The content of the program will be determined in part by what the participating students want to gain from the experience; they may want to do a virtual tour of their community to share with the group, perhaps share traditions tied to a specific holiday or event, share a national sporting event, or maybe plan an international dinner or cooking class. The activities are done outside of the student’s school schedule so will likely take place on the weekend or after school hours; this can be complicated by the partner’s time zone.

The participants may wish to have a session where they introduce and include their family members – again, the program is designed to meet the student’s expectations and desires. Also, in keeping with Rotary’s motto of Service Above Self participants may include some type of service experience.

What Role Does Rotary Play?

Rotary exchanges, regardless of format, must meet certain criteria of Rotary International including that participating districts be certified to offer exchange. Safety of our participants is always our top priority whether is it face-to-face or virtual, so every outbound student receives orientation training including online safety training.

Students must be sponsored by a Rotary club and that club provides a Youth Exchange Officer (YEO) or Counselor to work with the student and their family. The YEO will help the student with the application process, conduct the initial interview and work with the district to set up the district interview.

Your sponsor club will expect you to be an active participant in the program and commit to attending the meetings; these are likely to be either weekly or bi-weekly. At this point, virtual exchanges take place over a 3-month period. Once the exchange is completed, the student will be expected to attend a meeting of the sponsor club and provide a brief presentation; this may be in person or virtual.

Will I Get to Travel While on Exchange?

Travel is not a component of the virtual exchange; however, it may lead to travel later. The friends you make on virtual exchange may invite you to visit or you may extend an invitation to them.

What is the Cost?

There is no cost to the student for the exchange at this time. The program is new and being evaluated as a pilot program and sponsoring clubs are covering costs.

How Do I Apply?

If you are interested in taking part in virtual exchange, contact your local Rotary club and ask if they would consider sponsorship. If you don’t know if there is a Rotary club in your community, click here and we will help you connect you. You will be asked to fill out an initial application and take part in an interview; the next step is a more complete application form and a District interview. Although the other short and long-term exchanges have a set schedule, the virtual exchange program could be offered at various times throughout the calendar year.

Looking Ahead

As the virtual exchange program is new, we will be evaluating the number of exchanges we can accommodate and with which partner countries. We welcome your questions and suggestions.