Rotary Club seeking hosts for international exchange student

The club is gauging interest from families in Sun Peaks for the 2024 to 2025 school year.
Rotary Club exchange students gather together after their exchanges in a hotel conference room, wearing blue jackets covered in pins.
Rotary Club exchange students gather together after their exchanges. Photo provided by Brenda Wilkinson.

Do you want to be a part of Sun Peaks’ first Rotary Club international exchange student program?

The Rotary Club is looking to host one international exchange student with four families next year and is holding an information session for students looking to go abroad. 

Brenda Wilkinson is the Youth Exchange Officer for the Rotary Club. She said the Club is looking for families with youth in their homes or retirees who have time to engage with an exchange student. 

“[We’re looking for families with kids or] a couple that is retired, who might have more time to do more special things with the student. And when there are other kids, it’s really nice for the students as well,” Wilkinson said.

She said the experience is beneficial for students and families alike.

“[Students gain] language and cultural knowledge [learning] what it’s like to live in a different culture, how to adapt and be flexible,” Wilkinson said.

These skills are also transferred to host families who experience making someone feel comfortable in a new environment and learning about different cultures.

If host families are available, Wilkinson said the student would arrive in Sept. 2024 and stay in Sun Peaks until June 2025. While on exchange, the student stays with three host families for over three months each, while one family acts as a spare in case anything unexpected happens that impacts a host’s ability to house the student.

Host families do not need to speak another language because the student will travel to Sun Peaks to learn English.

When Wilkinson and her husband lived on the Sunshine Coast, she recalled they hosted students who hailed from diverse countries of origin, including from Thailand, Mexico, France and Germany. Students currently on exchange with various district Rotary Clubs are from Scandinavian countries, Europe, South America and Mexico.

According to Wilkinson, relationships forged during an exchange can last a lifetime.

“We [hosted] a young woman from France, and she said, ‘Oh, you have to come and meet my family sometime.’ So when we were on a trip with our kids to France, we went and spent some time with her family … which was a great experience,” Wilkinson told SPIN.

The club wants to hear from up to six interested families before mid-April, so members can start planning the exchange in 2024.

An allowance is paid to hosts to support some food and expenses.

Anyone interested can contact Wilkinson via email at [email protected]

The Rotary Club will also provide more details in May about an information session for students from grades 8 to 10 in Sun Peaks interested in going on an exchange. The Club can only send one student.

Wilkinson said previous outgoing students showed “a high level of adaptability and flexibility” and patience to learn a new language. Students would have to extend their schooling for another year because they wouldn’t take Canadian courses while on exchange.

For more information about youth exchanges, visit the Rotary Club’s website.

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