4 local students get scholarships to study in Germany

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Four Gwinnett students are preparing to spend the next year in Germany.

The 50 students from the Southeast United States and Puerto Rico awarded the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship include Shiloh High School student Ali Salcedo and Mill Creek High School students Timothy Agee, Joshua Botticher and William "Kyle" Bradshaw. Scholarship recipients are chosen by the Council on International Educational Exchange based on academic records, a review of student essays, teacher recommendations and a personal interview.

In July, the four will set off to become youth ambassadors of the United States as Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange program scholars. The program begins in Washington, D.C., with a two-day orientation, followed by a cultural and language immersion program in Germany, according to a news release.

During the program year, each student will live with a carefully selected host family, which will allow the students to gain a greater understanding of German culture and language by becoming part of a German family, the news release states.

"I've always just wanted to immerse myself in the culture in Germany," said Agee, 17. "With this scholarship, I'm able to do that. ... I'm very excited about going. I'm counting down the days until I go."

For more than 25 years, the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange program has awarded more than 19,000 ambitious young people the opportunity to expand their global perspectives. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and funded by the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag, the program has helped build a stronger partnership between the future generations of these two countries, the news release states.

Although no German language skills are required of the students, many have taken German classes.

Fifteen-year-old Salcedo's first language was Spanish. She learned English when she was 2.

"I was not taking the easy way out and taking Spanish in school," she said.

So she signed up to take German in ninth grade last year, she said, "and I loved it since the first day."

She said she's excited about immersing herself in the language, but she knows the program will be challenging. Family members aren't allowed to visit until after the new year. She plans to keep in touch with her family -- including her 6-year-old sister -- with the video chat program Skype.

"The true test of survival will be getting around and making friends," she said.

Agee, who will be a senior next year, said he plans on taking an online course so he can meet his graduation requirements. Like Salcedo, he said he'll miss his family, as well as things such as attending football games and church.

"I know it's going to be challenging," he said, "but I'm looking forward to the challenge."