The role of a Counselor for a Rotary exchange student is important and can be very gratifying. Inbound Counselors are the liaison between the student and his/her Host family and Host Rotary Club. Outbound student Counselors are the liaison between the student’s Sponsor Club and the Host club in the country the student is serving their exchange. Being Counselor can sometimes be challenging as you help and to deal with the needs of an active young student, but it can also be one of the most rewarding Rotary activities you’ll experience.

First and foremost, the Counselor needs to get to know their student and establish a caring and friendly rapport. Counselors are the students' advocate and must see their students once a month. It’s advisable that they see their student twice a month if possible. During the first month after the student arrives, once a week contact, once in person and 3 by phone, is often helpful for the student during this transition time. The student needs a trusted adult to lean on particularly in the first few weeks. A minimum of an hour should be planned for any personal visit, time perhaps for lunch or dinner, a long walk or other activity. Successful Counselors include their student in their life. A Counselor is not in any way a therapist or professional adviser. Most Counselors begin a correspondence with their student even prior to his/her arrival. Counselors are required to provide a monthly report for their student (done online via the RYE database).

Counselors arrange for their student to attend as many Rotary meetings and functions as possible. RYE is a cultural exchange and, though good grades are important, Rotary and cultural participation are equally important. This can include participation in as many club service activities and social events as possible. Counselors should encourage their club’s membership to become part of the student’s exchange by welcoming them personally and inviting the student into their homes, to family celebrations and community social events.

Counselors should work together with their Club Youth Exchange Officer (YEO) in making sure the student’s Host family is approved and that the student is enrolled in school. Often the Counselor will go to the school/school district with a host parent, assisting with the enrollment process. Counselors also maintain a relationship with each of their student’s Host families during the exchange year to ensure this is going well.

The RYE Counselor is:

  • not member of the student’s Host family
  • not someone who is involved in another RYE role
  • second Club member of the District’s RYE committee
  • background checked and approved to be a RYE Counselor
  • in regular contact with student
  • someone who will develop a relationship with the student
  • liaison between student, club, host family, school, community (Inbound) and Rotary at large
  • person who responds initially to a problem, concern, need
  • someone available to student and to others
  • someone who cares
  • someone proactively participating (not reactively participating)

When are Counselors Trained?

The RYE District Committee provides training for Counselors. Counselors attend a separate breakout session during the Orientation when they receive training, share experiences, and support each other. Ongoing training can occur in many environments, such as during:

  • One-on-one Club YEO and Counselor Meetings
  • Student Orientations
  • Parent Orientations
  • Pre-event briefings or instructional meetings
  • District Assemblies
  • Club Assemblies, fireside discussions, club meetings as program

Counselor Training Content

Training for Counselors includes information specific to the RYE program. It includes:

  • Rules of the youth exchange program
  • Laws of the land – federal, state, local, and association
  • Nature/attributes of issues impacting the program
  • Procedures for program implementation
  • Procedures for managing activities to avoid problems and minimize risks
  • Procedures for resolving problems
  • Role play activities
  • Critique past cases (good and bad incidents – cultural tensions)