Frequently Asked Questions
Purpose of the youth exchange program?
“For a World of Understanding Through Lions Youth Exchange”
The Lions International Youth Exchange program was organized to grant young people the opportunity to live with a family or families in a foreign country of their choosing. The purpose of which is to gain an understanding of the customs, history and culture of a people different from their own. Our thousands of "ambassadorsof good will", who do not have to come from Lions family members, are picked, not for their scholastic ability, but for their desire to learn about another culture.
The friendships, memories and experiences are all gained in a three to five week period during the summer. The ultimate goal is to have each participant, upon returning home, apply the greater awareness and appreciation of others to fellow students, friends and family. Since 1961 we have exchanged thousands of students. Through these exchanges, we believe the world will be a better place when we can understand and appreciate the differences and similarities in us all. This is a unique cultural learning opportunity for our youth and not conducted for tourism, education, or employment.
Who are the Lions?
Started in 1917, we are the largest and youngest international non-profit organization in the world. Our primary objective is eyesight conservation as implored by Helen Keller who asked us to become her "Knights of the Blind". Since then we have expanded our endeavors to include humanitarian service to all those with all needs. As a non-profit organization we came in 4th in monetary contributions to the victims of the tsunami that hit Asia in December 2004. Only the United States, England and Japan were bigger contributors than Lions Clubs International. We have our own Drug Awareness program and an international teaching program called "Quest". We are joined by UNICEF to help abused and abandoned children around the world. We support the “City of Hope” cancer research hospital in Duarte, California.
Do I have to be from a Lions’ family to participate in the Lions Youth Exchange Program?
No. The Lions International Youth Exchange Program is open to anyone between the ages of 15 ½ to 19 years of age. Our only requirement is that the person be of good character, be mature enough to travel and live away from home, and is willing to live with a host family or families for the required period of time. We accept students from all over the United States, particularly those who wish to participate in our Japanese program. If you are from a state other than California and wish to go to Japan there will be an additional charge to fly you from your home state to join our group leaving from Los Angeles International Airport. There will be no extra charge to fly you directly from your home state to one of our European countries, as this is not a group departure. Your flight tickets will be printed by our youth exchange travel agent.
How old do I have to be to participate in the Lions Youth Exchange Program?
Japan will accept our students at 15 ½ years of age. You will fly internationally as a group and most often with a chaperon. Typically Europe prefers our students to be at least 17 years old as you will not be flying as a group.
What are the International Youth Camps?
Many of the countries offer camp stays during your visit. There may be an extra charge to attend some of these camps. The camp stay is said to be one of the highlights of the exchange.
What is MD-4?
MD-4 (Multiple District - 4) is the designation given by Lions Clubs International to represent all of the Districts in California.
What is the procedure for applying?
1) go to: Apply Now
2) Fill out the:
a) Visiting Youth Exchange Application & Indemnity Form Consent
b) Release & Indemnity Agreement
c) Airport Transportation Form
d) Credit Card Authorization form ifyou wish to pay this way.
e) Visiting Youth Application Medical Information form. This may be sent at a later date since we know it could take awhile to get a doctor’s appointment.
3) All forms must be signed by hand and can be either mailed or scanned and sent to your Youth Exchange Chairperson. If you do not know your Lions Youth Exchange Chairperson, you can email Lion Terri Komatsu at:
If you require a scholarship, we have a form you can also submit which will be reviewed by our youth exchange committee for need, and will determine how much you can be awarded.
4) Filing deadline will depend upon your country of choice’s application deadline date. A deposit of $500 must accompany the application forms. Balance will be due April 30. We will take applications as long as there are openings and with the approval of the Youth Exchange Chairman of the country with which you wish to exchange.
What Countries Do We Exchange With
Please go to our Country page. We accept students from all over the United States, particularly those who wish to participate in our Japanese program. If you are from a state other than California, and wish to go to Japan, there will be an additional charge to fly you from your home state to Los Angeles, California. This is so you can join our group leaving from Los Angeles International Airport. If you are from Northern California, going to Japan, there is no extra charge to fly you down from Sacramento to Los Angeles. If going to Europe from a state other than California, our Youth Exchange travel agent will fly you directly out of your home state and back. There will be no extra charge to fly you directly from your home state to the country you wish to visit, if it is not Japan. This is because you will not be flying with a group. Your ticket will be issued by our Youth Exchange travel agent.
What are the dates for visiting Europe and Japan?
The program is a 3-5 week home stay during the summer. All departures are usually at the end of June or beginning of July depending on the requests of the different European Youth Exchange Chairmen. We accept students from all over the United States who wish to participate in our program.
What is the purpose of the letter to the “Dear Host Family”?
We are asking each participant to write a one page letter to their prospective host family/families. This should give more details about yourself, your likes and what you are hoping to accomplish during your stay. It is another means for your prospective host family to decide if you would be a good “fit” in their family. They will be looking through all the applications of all the students hoping to visit their country.
If you already know of a host family and wish to stay with them, we must send a special request to the Chairman of that country asking permission from that family to host you.
As soon as you find out that you are accepted into our Program you must apply for a passport if you do not have a current one. Our Youth Exchange travel agent cannot print your ticket until we have the picture page of your passport. If you have a passport it must be valid for 6 months after you return home.
Try to learn a little about who and what the Lions are and what their mission is. Learn a few words of greetings in the language of the country you are visiting. Most everyone in the European countries and many people in Japan speak English. However, when they see that someone has tried to learn a few words in their native tongue, it makes a very positive impression on you and your family. Knowing your own country’s history is a bonus as many people around the world are very knowledgeable about our country.
Word to Parents of Students Participating in the Lions Youth Exchange Program
In the event that your son or daughter decides to return home from a foreign country ahead of schedule due to homesickness or any other reason, the added cost to fly them home early must be paid for by the parents. When a student leaves the program for this reason, the Youth Exchange Committee and Foundation are no longer responsible for the student.
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