Why become a host family?

Open up your home to an exchange student and bring the world into your home! Being a Rotary Youth Exchange host family is a fun, educational and rewarding experience that can lead to lifelong friendships and relationships – not just with your exchange student but their family, other host families, and Rotarians involved in the exchange.

Rotary host families voluntarily open their homes to international exchange students for periods of approximately three to four months, providing that student with access to a unique opportunity to experience life as a local. This time provides an opportunity for everyone to develop a lifelong friendship, to learn about a different culture, and to gain many other rewarding experiences.

Exchange students are typically between the ages of 15 and 18 years old, and will be attending a secondary school in the area of the host Rotary club.

Host families come in many shapes and sizes – there is no typical family structure required. An acceptable family might have small children, older children or no children living at home. You might be childless, parents, grandparents or even great grandparents. It is also acceptable for divorced or separated parents to host and for the exchange student to move between the two homes the same as the biological children do. All that is expected is a that a caring and friendly family and home atmosphere is provided.

What’s Required?

Host families need to:

  • Provide a warm and friendly welcome and a nurturing home environment.
  • Provide a clean, comfortable, well-lit private bedroom with storage for clothes and use of a table or desk. Students can also share a bedroom with no more than one of your own children of the same gender as long as they have their own bed and there is enough room for them to share comfortably.
  • If you have children, treat your exchange student like one of your own children (for example, arranging transportation to school activities, including students in your own family meals, and making sure they are a part of all family activities).
  • Help your student learn English (if required) and about Australian culture through conversation, helpful activities around the home, and maybe a couple of outings.

What’s not Required?

Host Families do not need to:

  • Be Rotarians.
  • Entertain the exchange student. Students are expected to make friends, get involved in their school, Rotary club and other extra-curricular and community activities. They will also go on trips organised by Rotary so you do not need to take them on big trips away. However students will always be grateful for any weekend activities or adventures you might be able to take them on to help them experience life in Australia.
  • Take the student to/from school or be home at 3pm to welcome the student home from school. Students are encouraged to be independent and get public transport or walk/cycle to school. Many host parents work full time.
  • Have a child participating in Rotary Youth Exchange (although if your child is participating you do need to host or arrange other hosts).
  • Have children, or children still living at home.
  • Be aged under 60! You are never too old to host – it’s all in the attitude! Our oldest host father in D9640 to date was Eric from Burleigh Heads, host Dad to Luca from Germany, when he was 90.
  • Be married/partnered at the time of the exchange. However please note the single males cannot host other than in the short-term program (as the exchange student will be accompanied by their exchange buddy in the home).
  • Be a particular race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. All families are welcome.
  • Pay for all miscellaneous expenses for the student. Students receive pocket money from their host Rotary club and must cover all additional expenses themselves.  As a general rule of thumb, however, if you are paying for something for one of your children (like a ticket to a movie or a family dinner out), it is customary to also pay for your exchange student.

Do I have to host a student if my own child is going on exchange?

If your child is going on a short-term exchange, this is a family-family swap and you must host your child’s exchange buddy in your home for 3 months.

If your child is going on long-term exchange, you are required to be a host family for a minimum of 6 months over an 18 month period for an inbound student/s to District 9640. This will normally be two hosting periods of three months each for two different students, but it can be up to six months in one go particularly if you are in a more regional area that might not have an exchange student every year.

We understand that from time-to-time families will have personal circumstances that make it difficult for them to host, and in these situations the families are asked to find two host families from their own network of family and friends.

We have also answered this question in more detail in our FAQs.

Is there anything different about hosting a short-term student?

When hosting a short-term student you are participating in a family-to-family swap. That means you will accept a student into your home for three months, and then your child will be hosted by that same student and their parents for three months. As such there is a much more reciprocal arrangement to the exchange than in the long-term program when direct family swaps are rare.

Families in the short-term program will often take their hosted student on a trip away (for example to Cairns to Sydney), and this is then reciprocated by the other family taking their child away while they are hosting them. The short term students are also usually here for a period over the school holidays and there is an expectation that the family will organise some activities for the student during that time as they will have limited opportunities to go on Rotary trips or have time to get involved in their own extra-curricular activities due to the short nature of the exchange.

Why Rotary?

Rotary has a well-earned reputation as a student exchange program, having exchanged students worldwide for more than 50 years. Because of our existing international structure, Rotary provides a well-managed infrastructure to support the students, the host families and everyone else involved in the exchange.

Unlike commercial exchange programs where host families are often required to host the student for the full twelve-month period, Rotary offers a shorter 3-4 month hosting period. Rotary also provides the student with the support of a counsellor from their local Rotary Club to assist with any issues, questions or challenges for the student and the host family as they arise.

How much will we get paid?

Hosting Rotary Youth Exchange students is completely voluntary. Rotary does not compensate host families financially – host families participate for the rewarding, cultural experience they and their family receive, and for the satisfaction of sharing their country and culture, and helping an international student develop and grow as a global citizen.


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