ROCHESTER — Elizabeth Wiederholt has always been fascinated by the world beyond her own borders. She remembers walking with her mother when she was younger, talking about the Syrian civil war together. When high school rolled around, she got into Model UN, which gave her a taste of what it would be like to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems.
In August, she will broaden her horizons a little more.
Wiederholt is traveling to Germany as one of the students awarded the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship for 2022-2023.
Co-sponsored by the US State Department and the German Bundestag (Parliament), the scholarship is awarded to “high-achieving high school students,” according to a press release.
“I’ve always been extremely interested in studying abroad,” she says. “As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been very interested in what’s going on (in the world).”
She is thinking about a future career in the foreign service. Until then, she accumulates experience doing what she loves; discover and experience foreign languages and cultures.
Wiederholt will use the scholarship as a gap year, after graduating from Mayo High School. Her journey will begin with a four-week language camp, followed by a stay with a host family in the northern German town of Uchte, where she will attend school.
She has already started talking to the family she will be staying with. Wiederholt and her foster sister sent each other photos of their respective hometowns. Wiederholt sent photos of the corncob water tower, the library, and Trader Joe’s.
“All kinds of random stuff,” she said.
This is not the first time that Wiederholt has been abroad. Last year, she spent a month studying Spanish in Spain. It won’t be the last either. Part of his upcoming college program at American University will include several years of study in Japan.
His love for traveling and discovering the world is not just about collecting stamps in his passport. It’s about realizing how one’s own culture and upbringing has shaped one’s view of the world and embracing new ideas from other countries.
“Immersing myself in these other cultures, I think, will be important if I end up working in international diplomacy,” she said. “Studying abroad in Spain really made me look at my own life and things that I always took for granted. And I realized, oh, it’s just a cultural idea. is not necessarily just a fact of life.
With every place she goes, she is able to add a little more context to her understanding of global relationships. This is ultimately the whole point of the exchange program she is about to undertake in Germany.
A press release on the program said it was intended to “foster mutual understanding and strengthen ties between Germany and the United States through citizen diplomacy.”
For Wiederholt, however, the goal is not just to learn more about a country and how it compares to its homeland. It’s about learning about cultures around the world.
“Germans are known to have a very direct communication style, and in Japan I think the culture is much more indirect,” she said. “I think it will be good to have experience in both cultures. I think it will serve me well in communicating with people in the future and bridging the gaps I encounter.
For now, though, she’s excited to pack her bags for Germany – excited to experience all the travel has to offer.
And, predictably, she goes into it with a bit of nervousness about what she might encounter.
“I hope there’s something magical about this language camp,” she said, referring to the first part of her trip. “I really, really hope I don’t have to take chemistry or physics.” It was impossible in English, and I don’t even want to think about it in German.