by Mamta Lulla

Attend school in a new country, try a different cuisine and make new friends: these are only some of the experiences Rotary Youth Exchange program lets students experience.
In the Tri-Region, the experiences are similar, but thanks to the students who leave, others in the community get to learn from that one student’s experience.
The Rotary Youth Exchange program 2018-2019 is underway and the lucky chosen student will get to go to Italy. The inbound student, this year from Netherlands, will be attending a Parkland School Division school.
The exchange program is a three-year process. For this year, students are picked this season and will have until August 2019 to prepare for their approximate-nine month journey. In the third year, they will share their experiences with other students and residents in the Tri-Region.
Spruce Grove Rotary Club, Stony Plain Rotary Club and Rotary Club of Parkland After Dark sponsor a student to go to a foreign country. Other international clubs, like in this case, Italy, also take part in sponsorships. The total cost of the program every year is about $20,000 for both inbound and outbound students.
Last year, a student from the Tri-Region went to Hungary and after his return, he said he now has a friend in every continent in the world, said Anne Montgomery, youth services director at Rotary Club of Spruce Grove.
The program was active years ago before taking a hiatus and restarting about three years ago. The program has been active for three years but it’s the second year when an outbound student is leaving the local area.
“The goal is to allow students to immerse themselves in another culture,” said Montgomery.
She explained the clubs look for host families who live in the Parkland School Division bussing area. The families who will host an inbound student don’t have to be Rotarians. The families are however asked to get a security clearance done.
The host families pay for hosting any child.
“We hope the experience of having a student from another country in your home would be worth the investment,” said Montgomery.
The students get a small allowance which they can use for their personal needs like toiletries.
As for the experience, the Rotary club hopes, you will treat the student, just as you treat your own family.
“For example, you would bring the student with you for a family movie night and pay for them as if they were your family,” explains Montgomery.
Every year, the clubs look for four to six host families. Last year, the inbound student stayed with three months per family. This year, that may change to two months per family.

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