As a German language teacher, Jacob Browning tries to build confidence and impart life lessons in his students even when the lesson or road ahead seems foreign: “Find your own path,” he urges them.
The path senior Grace Klosterman discovered now points to Europe.
Grace, who attended St. Rita and Mother Brunner, is one of just 250 students nationwide to be awarded the prestigious Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) scholarship. The award covers an academic year of study and cultural immersion in Germany.
“Grace was selected as a Congress-Bundestag scholar due to her demonstrated academic qualifications, cultural open-mindedness and motivation,” according to a release issued by Allen Evans, program Manager at AFS Intercultural Programs, a worldwide non-profit student exchange organization.
The senior will forgo her final year at CJ and instead spend the 2014-15 academic year living with a German host family, the Konle family, and attending Johann-Michael-Sailer-Gymnasium, a local high school. She departs the United States for her year abroad on September 4 and will live in the village of Blindheim.
“Grace will serve as a ‘youth ambassador’ from the United States for the academic year, while participating in educational, cultural and political events, including receptions and meetings with government officials,” Evans continued.
Although she doesn’t speak the language fluently, Grace said she was inspired to pursue the study abroad opportunity after spending time in the host country as part of CJ’s Dayton-Augsburg exchange last summer with Jakob Fugger Gymnasium. She was also influenced by her teacher, Herr Browning, who wrote her a letter of recommendation.
“Where a lot of students are self conscious about speaking a foreign language, Grace was not afraid,” Browning said. After completing German 1 with Browning, Grace had to take German 2 through an online course offered at CJ due to a schedule conflict.
“She was very helpful to her classmates in German 1 and the class really missed her. She was a student who her peers looked to for direction,” Browning said.
After receiving the scholarship and making the difficult decision to study abroad, Grace needed to spend her summer finishing up math and social studies courses in order to meet CJ’s graduation requirements. She will also work with CJ English and Religion teachers throughout the course of her time overseas to earn the necessary credits in those subjects. The courses she takes in Germany will count as electives, and Grace will be eligible to graduate with a CJ diploma.
“We’ve had exchange students before, but usually they come here instead of our students going there,” said Steve Fuchs, assistant principal. In fact, Grace is the first CJ student to participate in the CBYX program since 2009.
“I decided to study abroad because I have always had a passion for Germany and after visiting there last year, I knew I had to return,” Grace said. “In fact, I loved Germany so much that after last year’s exchange, I was homesick for Germany for practically two whole months.”
She is most excited to tour the parts of the country she missed out on during her last visit, and said she looks forward to reconnecting with old friends from Jakob Fugger. Among the things the senior will miss most are her family, her dogs, and all of her friends from CJ.
“I’ve made amazing, lifelong friends at CJ who built me up into the person I am today and after this last summer before I leave, I’ve really been thinking about how thankful I am for them,” she said. She also thanked her teachers, coaches and mentors at CJ for their support.
“Socially, spiritually, and academically I have been transformed. So rather than the shy, aimless eighth grader I was before, I have become the culture-fueled, academically-curious person I needed to be to earn this scholarship.
“It will be difficult to leave the school I call home, but rest assured, I will always remain a part of this wonderful community.”
ABOUT THE CONGRESS-BUNDESTAG YOUTH EXCHANGE
Introduced under a Presidential initiative in 1983, CBYX aims to strengthen U.S.-German relations through public diplomacy and cultural understanding. In this time of global interdependence, the strong ties that bind the U.S. and Germany through trade and diplomatic relations are essential in U.S. foreign affairs. CBYX sees the importance of youth ambassadorship as a means to strengthen these ties. Dedicated supporter Senator Richard Lugar (IN) calls CBYX “an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the world, gain a deeper understanding of people and issues, build lifelong skills, and expand horizons.”
To learn more about additional opportunities to study abroad, host an exchange student, or bring intercultural learning into the classroom with AFS-USA, the administering organization, visit www.afsusa.org.