In my earlier post about New Zealand, I mentioned that for this trip I had gone through the Lions Youth Exchange Program. As for this post, I have decided to talk about this program to inform you about what this program is about, what it offers, and how to take part in the program. I also hope to interest you into taking part in this program so that you can experience the world around you by traveling to new and exciting places and meeting wonderful people.
The Lions International Youth Exchange Program officially began in 1961 and since then thousands of people from the ages 15 to 21 have gone through this wonderful program to visit 38 different countries. This Lions program’s main objective is to “create and foster a spirit of understanding among the peoples of the world”. And to do so they provide young adults with the opportunity to reside with one or more host family in another country so that they can participate in the everyday life of another culture and participate in local customs. Generally, the participate will stay 2 to 4 weeks with one or more host family and then stay 1 or more additional week(s) in a Lions International Youth Camp. With the host family(s) the participant will be able to experience so much more than just the touristic view of a culture and also have a much more personal approach in interacting with the local people. Then at the camps, the participant will be able to meet and interact with other people who are also in the program but are from many different places in the world. This lets the participants share their own cultural viewpoints and their experience in the foreign county with many other people from across the globe.
To become a Lions Youth Exchangee, you must first be between the ages 15 to 21 years old, have proof of insurance, and you have to request a sponsorship from a local Lions club. In Merced, there are two Lions clubs that you can ask for a sponsorship. There is the Merced Breakfast Lions Club which meets at the Merced Collage and the Merced Golden Lions Club which meets at Carrows Restaurant. Once you are able to obtain a sponsorship from a club, you have to fill out an application that will provide your information, your picture, destination preferences (you must have a basic knowledge of the language in the host country), and a short letter to potential host families. From there, your information would be sent to the chairpersons from your destination preferences and they will try to find you host families to stay with. Once you are chosen to stay with 1 or more host family in a country, the only thing left to do is pay for your plane ticket, make sure you have a passport, and pack all the things you will need for your trip. However, the most important part is to remember that you are representing your home country and you have to be open to accept the customs of another culture.
Also, even if you are not one for traveling, you can still take part in the program. Instead of being the youth exchangee, you can become a host family that would take in a youth exchangee for 1 or more weeks. By being a host family, you can experience the joy of sharing your culture and daily customs and you can learn about your visitor’s customs and culture as well. To become a host family, you must put in an application at your local Lions club, must be able to provide a bed and meals to your guest, know your participant’s language, meet insurance requirements, and be able to include the participant in your daily routine. Before you are able to take in an exchange student, the Lions Club will have to make sure that you will be able to provide the young adult with a safe and friendly environment. However, even though it can be a long process, the wonderful experience of sharing your life and culture with others is more than worth the effort.
Now that I have provided you with the information about the program, I hope that you will take part in it, whether it be as the exchangee or the host family. Either way, you will be able to learn about different cultures and customs, experience so many wonderful things, and the memories made will stay with you throughout your lifetime. Personally, my family has been a host family and I have also been an exchangee for this program and I plan on doing both again in the future. The Lions International Youth Exchange Program gives you the opportunity to experience the world around you, so why not take it?
I’ve made a new family during my trip in New Zealand and now so can you.