Have you ever wondered what it would be like to host a high school foreign exchange student? The Rotary Club of Waukee is hoping you'll consider it.
Jeff Kooistra, youth exchange officer for the Rotary Club of Waukee, said the organization is looking for families interested in hosting a exchange student for the upcoming 2012-13 school year.
Why the Rotary Club? Rotary International has been a longtime supporter of the student exchange program. According to its website, "For over 75 years, students and host families have broadened their horizons through Rotary Youth Exchange. More than 80 countries and over 8,000 students each year participate in the program, which is administered at the regional level by Rotary districts and at the local level by Rotary clubs."
That's where Kooistra and the Rotary Club of Waukee come in.
Kooistra said Waukee's been a participant for several years supporting both inbound and outbound exchange students through the program.
"The Rotary supports as many exchange students financially as we can," he said. "Since I’ve been here, in the past four years, we've had one from Brazil and another from France."
Kooistra said the Rotary Club absorbs much of the cost of hosting an exchange student so there's no financial burden on the families. The benefits, Kooistra said, far outweigh what little cost the host families might incur.
"Families have to be willing to host and have a room for the student," he said. "Essentially, they treat these students like any other family member and after about three weeks, they really do become become part of the family."
Families interested in hosting a student during the 2012-13 school year need only make a two- to three-month commitment as students are encouraged to get a slice of American life by changing venues.
"For the host family, you get to meet someone from another part of the world and what you'll find is that you will be in touch with that student the rest of their life," he said. "If you stay in touch, hopefully you'll get to visit their home and their family, as well."
As for students interested in studying in a foreign country, Kooistra said that's a process that needs to be started immediately. Students are now being considered for the 2013-14 school year only.
To study abroad, students must be between the ages of 15-17 and must be under 18 years of age when they leave the country. Typical stays for both inbound and outbound students are just under one year.
For more information on how to host an exchange student or be one yourself, check out the Rotary Youth Exchange page at Rotary International.