Each school year, the Lehi Rotary Club sponsors one foreign exchange student. This year’s student arrived in August and has been enjoying time spent studying and experiencing American culture. The Lehi Rotary Club are in search of a new family to host him through the end of the school year in June.
The Rotary International Youth Exchange Program sponsors students between the ages of 15 and 19 from more than 100 countries.
“The Rotary Youth Exchange is one of the most affordable and safest youth exchange programs in the world. Over 450 clubs around the world are eligible to participate in youth exchanges, and almost all of them who are eligible participate,” said Sarah Davenport-Smith, youth exchange officer for the Lehi Rotary Club.
The local Rotary Club sponsors the exchange student, including a monthly stipend and covering the cost of school fees. The student is also invited to attend all meetings, activities and service projects with the Rotary Club. At an upcoming meeting, this year’s student will give a presentation on himself and his experience so far, including what he’s learned and what he enjoys most about America and Utah.
All expenses not covered by Rotary, such as daily meals and activities to help the student have fun and immerse them in local culture, are covered by the student’s various host families. Most exchange students will be hosted by two to four families during the academic year.
This year’s student, whose identity is being kept private to ensure his safety, applied for the program through the Rotary Club in his hometown. His parents are long-time Rotarians who were familiar with the exchange program and wanted him to have the opportunity to be immersed in a new culture.
He is an avid soccer player who is reserved, quiet and observant, but also kind, curious and willing to try anything. Because he’s older than all of the children in his host family, he gets to act asthe “big brother” and has become part of the family. Some of his adventures so far with his current host family have included a trip to Lagoon, going camping and visiting some of the nearby National Parks.
“Not only do these students come and have a couple of host families, but they also get to experience life here in America. They’re fully immersed in the culture, in their schools and in the families they live with. These kids come from different countries to places like Lehi, and they get to learn that there are certain similarities to where they come from, and some things that are different from home but that they love. Perceptions are changed, and this is how we build relationships with other countries,” said Davenport-Smith.
The program is approved by the State Department, and families interested in hosting an exchange student are expected to go through a rigorous interview process and federal background check. The family must have a physically, financially and emotionally safe home environment.
Anyone interested in becoming a host for this year’s exchange student may email firstname.lastname@example.org.