Lindsay Baltzell will spend her junior year in Germany.
The Shawnee Heights High School student was awarded the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship, which is fully funded by the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag and will allow her to spend the 2019-20 school year overseas.
“Travel has always been in my life plan and this seemed like an opportunity to do that,” Baltzell said. “I knew it was going to be a good place to travel to for my first time out of the country. As I was looking into it with my parents, we found out more about what it meant to be a part of the program and what it advocated for. I was drawn to the message they had and the fact that it works through Congress. As someone who is very involved in politics and government, I thought this would be the perfect program for me.”
Baltzell just completed her third year of high school German, and it was her teacher who told the class about the scholarship. As a Congress-Bundestag participant, Baltzell will be placed with a German host family and will attend a German high school. Before her departure on Aug. 10, she will attend training in Washington, D.C.
Once she arrives in Berlin, she will go through an orientation program. Also while in Germany, she will have chances to go on cultural excursions to the German Bundestag and select German cities.
“I’m super excited,” Baltzell said. “I enjoy traveling and experiencing something as a tourist, but I want to be in it all the way. And this is going to put me into it all the way. I’m really going to be able to see the ins and outs of not only living in Germany but living in a place that is different than the United States.”
The Congress-Bundestag program is overseen by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It began in 1983 to strengthen ties between Germany and the United States through citizen diplomacy. More than 26,000 students have participated in the program. Alumni receive benefits through the U.S. Department of State’s International Exchange Alumni network and a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program Alumni Association.
The interview process for the scholarship required Bultzell to submit an application and introduction video. She then attended an overnight interview in Dallas. There, she was asked to participate in group activities and give presentations, as well as show how she functions without her parents' guidance.
Bultzell has been away from her family in the past for up to two weeks, but nowhere near the 10 months she’ll be gone this time. She admits to some nerves about the trip, primarily with her ability to communicate with her host family.
“It kind of comes to me in waves,” she said. “With all the energy I’m putting into the end of the school year, it’s hard to put my mindset into where I’m going to be in a couple of months. Whenever I do think about it, I think about the little things that are going to change in my life. It’s going to be so new for me.”