SOUTH KINGSTOWN—As the days drew nearer to high school graduation, South Kingstown High School student Montara Erickson grew increasingly curious as to what her future would hold. A graduate of the 2012 class and member of the Rhode Island Honor Society, Erickson will journey to Germany this fall as a recipient of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship (CBYX).
“I am really excited,” said Erickson. “I had applied to some other scholarships of similar sort and didn’t get them, so I was hoping to get this.”
The CBYX program, operated through funding from the U.S. Department of State, provides 50 students from American schools who demonstrate academic excellence and cultural open-mindedness with the opportunity to live with a host family in Germany and attend a local high school for the 2012-13 academic year. Erickson will also serve as a ‘youth ambassador’ for the United States during her stay, participating in political and cultural events sponsored by the German and U.S. governments.
Erickson, who attended a French-speaking public school in Paris during a sabbatical year of her father, University of Rhode Island Professor of French Lars O. Erickson, has never been to Germany and does not speak the language, but feels that the opportunity is one which will enhance her world viewpoint moving forward.
“After going to a French public school, I am not completely new to the concept of [experiencing] different cultures,” said Erickson. “This will be different because I won’t have my family there and I don’t know the language as well. I haven’t been to Germany very much, but being able to experience another culture will be cool.”
As a part of the application process, Erickson sent her grades to AFS-USA, a student exchange group which organizes the scholarship program, and wrote a series of short essays detailing her interest and qualifications. Once she was nominated as a semi-finalist, Erickson traveled to Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts, for the interviewing process.
“At the end [of the individual interviews], we had to build a tower out of construction paper and popsicle sticks together,” said Erickson. “I had just done all of my college interviews, and there were five people interviewing me. Having everyone together at the end was not what I expected, but building the tower was actually really fun.”
Erickson will participate as well in URI’s Deutsche Sommerschule am Atlantik, an immersion program spanning three or six weeks, which should help to address her German language proficiency. In the fall, Erickson will first stop in Washington D.C. for orientation exercises before she embarks for Germany. She is excited to move forward, although she does not know yet who her host family will be or where she will be staying in Germany.
“I am really hoping to find out soon because I really want to know,” said Erickson.
The CBYX program was created through a presidential initiative in 1983 to strengthen U.S.-German relations, stressing the importance of developing outlooks to diplomacy and cultural understanding through youth experience and participation. Upon her return, Erickson will study Biology at The New College of Florida in Sarasota.