I had an opportunity to visit with Mark Magney, the co-chair of the Minnetonka Rotary International Exchange Student Program, about his involvement in coordinating students. He was very knowledgeable on the important aspects of bringing students from foreign countries ( inbound students ) here and aligning students from Hopkins / Minnetonka ( outbound students ) to be successful in spending time in a foreign country and a different culture.
Mark, why did you get involved ?
--> “I was first involved as a host parent for a student from New Zealand in 2001. That student was from a different exchange student program, but I had a chance to understand first hand what a personal impact I had on this youth and they had on me.”
You have been involved in the Minnetonka Rotary Exchange Student Program for over 10 years. Why do you remain involved ?
--> “I really enjoyed being a host for that youth I mentioned. I found that there were not a lot of people who wanted to get involved and I felt strongly enough about it to continue to work with our youth exchange program since 2006. Katie and I have co-chaired the Youth Exchange Committee since 2008 and we make a good team. I continue to be impressed with the young people that come here and their cultures that I get to learn about. I get an opportunity to see these young people grow. They show up here shy and reserved and before to long they fit in and are having fun. One of the things that I really enjoy is once a year when we interview Prospective Outbound Students from throughout District 5950. This interviewing pool is high school students ( mostly Juniors ) applying for an outbound exchange student opportunity. The youth that show up are great kids. They have confidence that is very reassuring about the youth that are following behind us. I am very encouraged by what I see that day. ”
What kind of problems do you run into ?
--> “The hardest thing about what we do is finding host families to share their home with an exchange student for three or four months. We recruit in the schools for parents, by word of mouth, and from other high school students for leads. One of the challenges we run into is homesick teenagers, but the telephone and skype communication reach around the world and help us to keep the family link intact while students spend time away from home. We are 98% effective and successful with our inbound and outbound exchange students.”
Do you retain relationships with any of these students ?
--> “Yes, Malou from Denmark was an exchange student here in 2011. We exchange Facebook messages regularly. She says that she will be returning to Minnesota soon and will make sure to visit with us. Pierina from Peru was here in 2014 and when she left I told her about our coming trip to South America, including Peru. You can read about how that worked out in the nav bar above on the right … Go to ‘Pierina from Peru’. “ ..... or click here: http://www.minnetonkarotary.org/content/pierina-peru
Highlights and Details Regarding
The Rotary International Exchange Student Program:
--> The Rotary Youth Exchange serves 8,000 students in 33 countries annually
--> Locally, the North Star Youth Exchange receives/sends ~60 students annually
--> Cost $6,000 includes R/T transportation, orientation, Rotary blazer, insurance, pins for exchanging, business cards and name badge
--> 3 Host Families open their homes 3-4 months each (mid- August to early July)
--> Local Rotary Clubs provide a monthly allowance for school lunches & incidentals