Steamboat Springs How would you like to get out of town way, way out of town next year?
The Steamboat Springs Rotary Club is accepting applications for local high school students ages 15 to 18 interested in expanding their horizons, perhaps learning a new language and exploring foreign cultures by being a Youth Exchange Student.
"It totally changed my life," former exchange student Melissa Mahosky said. "It's totally worthwhile; it's so much fun."
Mahosky, who spent a year living in Ciudad Balles, Mexico, encourages local students to be open-minded and jump on the opportunity.
It might be because Steamboat Springs is such a spectacular place in itself that, recently, not many local students applied for the international scholarship. Last year, not a single student applied, and the adventure went unused.
Anna Poulsen, currently a junior at the University of Colorado, decided to apply for the trip a few years ago after meeting an exchange student from Slovakia who spent a year in Steamboat as part of the same program.
"We became really good friends, and he just had such a great time I decided I wanted to go somewhere, too," Poulsen said. "It was really hard, but I learned a lot. Personally, I think it's a great program. There are so many really positive aspects to it, like becoming bilingual. It's a really good skill to have. Also, learning about a different culture firsthand, there's nothing else like it."
An additional bonus to spending a year abroad is that it takes student-travelers to all kinds of places, not just a single host town or city. Poulsen was able to travel to England, and she also saw most of France.
"It just opens a lot of doors," she said. "And it forced me to become adaptable and flexible. You just have to."
Rotary Club member Chris Stillwell, owner of the Nite's Rest Motel and a host for students staying in Steamboat, believes there will be an upsurge in interest in the program this year.
"We made a presentation last year at the high school, and most of the students really interested in going just weren't quite ready yet they weren't juniors and seniors," he said.
Students who are interested in traveling to almost any region of their choice including Belgium, France, Mexico, Australia, Italy, China and Japan can consider themselves applicants to become ambassadors of goodwill.
"If you keep your eyes and mind open and erase any expectations you might have, you'll learn a lot," Mahosky said. "I met so many people and did so many things that most people never get a chance to, and I certainly wouldn't have had a chance to if I hadn't gone."
The purpose of the Rotary Youth Exchange program is to build bridges of understanding among the peoples of the world by assimilating to a host country's culture and language.
Young ambassadors will live with one or more appropriate host families and attend high school or other pre-university schooling. The program is all about building international goodwill "one student at a time."
"It's a really great program," Stillwell said. "I highly recommend it to anyone who demonstrates a real want to go."
If selected, the student's family is responsible for airfare, spending money and the application fee. The application fee is $450, which includes the cost of administering the program, outbound orientations and health insurance. A $350 refund will be made if the student is not placed.
Interested students should pick up a short form application at no cost at Nite's Rest Motel, 610 N. Lincoln Ave., in downtown Steamboat. Short form applications are due Friday. Completed applications should be dropped off at the Nite's Rest or faxed to 879-5199. The Steamboat Rotary Club will review the applications, interview the applicants and make its selection the week of Oct. 2.
For questions, call Kris Hammond at 879-6060 at work, 879-0726 at home or send an e-mail message to email@example.com.
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