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Two Loudoun students to represent county in German Bundestag

Park View High School German student Caitlin Payne will be spending next year in Germany. Submitted photo
Two of Loudoun's promising students will be foregoing their college years by one year with a once in a lifetime opportunity to work for a year in Germany with the German Bundestag and American State Department.

Caitlyn Payne from Park View High School and Ben Hughes from Woodgrove High School were two of the 50 selected winners of the 2014 Congress-Bundestag Scholarship.

According to its website, the scholarship is a part of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program for high school students who want to experience a culture and learn a language through a full immersion experience.

Students will learn about German culture first-hand by living with a host family and attending a German high school.

Payne is aware of the opportunities that can come from a program like this for a student.

'For me this scholarship means the chance to get a better understanding of a culture I have been learning about for four years now and have come to love. I love traveling and gaining new experiences, and living in Europe for 10 months is an amazing way to do just that,” Payne said. “It is a phenomenal opportunity that can lead to even more amazing experiences, like the door to a corridor that hundreds of rooms open off.”

Payne described the moment she learned of her being accepted as the best time of her life so far. She has high expectations for the experience.

“I don't think any of us actually thought I would get accepted, it was just a far off dream. When I got the email saying I had made it to the interview, I was ecstatic, but I did not realize how big a deal it was until I found out that there were 80 people being interviewed of which they chose 50,” Payne said. “It was the most miraculous event in my life (so far). I actually cried, and I am not usually the type of person to shed a tear over anything.”

Both Payne and Hughes were encouraged to apply for the program by their German teachers, Matthew Talboo and Effie Hall, respectively.

“In my 25 years of German instruction in Loudoun, I have had students who have considered taking part in this exchange program or even applied, but did not achieve acceptance,” Hall said. “Ben is postponing college to be an 'ambassador' of Loudoun in Germany. This is truly a feat worth recognition.”

Initiated in 1983, the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program was created to strengthen ties between Germany and the United States through citizen diplomacy. The program was founded in celebration of the 300th year anniversary of the first German immigration to the United States. CBYX is jointly funded by the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag, and in the U.S. is overseen by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Payne isn't sure what to expect from the experience, but she is excited to see what the future holds.

“I am not really sure what to expect while I am over there. Of course, I want to better my German skills, but other than that I really just want to learn the culture,” she said. “I'm just keeping my mind open to all the possibilities.”


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