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Neenah Student Gains Perspective Through Studying Abroad

As+an+ambassador+of+American+youth%2C+junior+Sarah+Czech+encourages+others+to+recognize+the+benefits+of+a+foreign+experience.+
As an ambassador of American youth, junior Sarah Czech encourages others to recognize the benefits of a foreign experience.

As an ambassador of American youth, junior Sarah Czech encourages others to recognize the benefits of a foreign experience.

As an ambassador of American youth, junior Sarah Czech encourages others to recognize the benefits of a foreign experience.

Ashlyn Jacobs, Student of Journalism

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The benefits outweigh the negatives for junior Sarah Czech as she studies abroad in Bad Bramstedt, Germany for the 2018-’19 school year.

Czech’s three older siblings have traveled before, and as the youngest, she readily gained inspiration from them. She began to consider the possibility of studying abroad toward the end of her freshman year at NHS.

After much researching, reading of travel blogs, and last-minute-decision-making, Czech submitted her application to the Youth for Understanding organization less than a week before the deadline. Bored of her colorless routine and ready for something new, Czech awaited a response.

After an interview and several months of what seemed like endless anticipation, YFU confirmed Czech’s admission.

“From that point, my life was considerably more chaotic,” Czech said with a laugh.

Only a few months left before departure; Czech had to spend much of her time working in order to save up spending money for her year in Germany.

When the time came near to leave, Czech worried about how to prepare.

“I couldn’t figure out how to pack my life into two suitcases.”

On Aug. 5 after traveling over 4,000 miles, she had finally arrived. Czech stayed in a hostel with other exchange students during the first month, so she could adapt to the language and culture.

Independence is necessary when studying in a foreign country, though Czech has also learned to rely on the kindness of others. Most Germans, including her host family, speak English, so she is able to ask questions or receive help when needed.

Czech spends most of her school days surrounded by the German language. No day is the same for her, but through connections with other students and a positive attitude she enjoys the experience.

A typical school day for Czech begins at 6:30 a.m. She wakes up, enjoys an early breakfast with her host mom, and bikes to school. After a few class periods, students are released for a break, in which Czech walks to a bakery with a friend.

School days are scheduled different in Germany; for Czech, the day ends at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 1:20 p.m. on other days. On Fridays, classes begin at 9 a.m.

Lunch and homework follow. For her typical evening routine  — Czech runs, eats dinner with her host family, and hits the hay.

Traveling to another country reveals differences between American and foreign cultures. For example, Czech notices how environmentally conscious Germans are compared with Americans. Most people rarely drive cars unless absolutely necessary.

An additional change she must adapt to are the windows — they function differently, and opening them provides an immense struggle for Czech as she expects them to fall out of the sill.

Though stereotypes of icy and inhospitable Germans are far from true, Czech confirms that they do in fact frequently eat bread and potatoes.

As an ambassador of American youth, Czech encourages others to recognize the benefits of a foreign experience. Despite existing headaches and hardships, she recommends those who are considering applying to go for it. The adventure builds personal characteristics necessary for one’s future.

Benefits include — but are not limited to —  learning a foreign language, seeing a culture from a new perspective, and becoming adaptable to changing situations.

“Being a foreign exchange student stretches you, but it makes you more responsible, more adaptable, and more open.”

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Neenah Student Gains Perspective Through Studying Abroad