EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – About 40 students are hoping to receive scholarships to study abroad this summer through Egg Harbor Township High School’s partnership with the Council on International Educational Exchange.
The partnership, now in its third year, was brought into the district through a grant application and award secured by district world language supervisor Michelle Schreiner. The deadline for applications for this year’s scholarships is Thursday, Dec. 1.
At least 40 students have applied so far, Schreiner said Wednesday. The scholarship application is comprised of teacher recommendations, short-answer questions, transcipts, health information and family financial information. Scholarship awards are announced three weeks after deadline.
In 2015, the first year the scholarships were offered to Egg Harbor Township students, 20 students applied, which was among the highest application rate of all five New Jersey schools that CIEE selected for the grant program. As students have traveled and returned to school to share their experiences with their peers, the number of applicants has doubled in just two years.
Both partial and full scholarships are offered to those selected, depending on financial situation. Schreiner said the scholarships open up the world to students who may not otherwise have the means to travel.
For the summer 2016, 10 students were selected to receive a total of $47,000 in scholarships. That covered the program costs; each student was still required to pay for airfare.
This school year those students made themselves available at fairs and after-school meetings to discuss the opportunities with peers who may be considering applying.
The mix of freshman, sophomores and juniors studied abroad for four weeks, living with a host family, taking classes and developing language proficiency. Nine students – Aedan McBride, Mary Sadalla, Walker Atkinson, Bryanna Diaz, Jessica Chamorro, Morgan Wright, Nicole DelConte, Aqsa Asad and Mostafa Gad – took the cultural and language immersion programs offered in their selected cities in Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Morocco.
The other, Mohaymenul Islam, chose to do a global entrepreneurship program in Berlin that blended cultural immersion with hands-on learning from established and startup companies.
Islam said the classes focused on bringing an idea to market and other topics such as increasing revenue. He said Berlin has become a hotbed for startup companies, a sort of Silicon Valley of Europe, but the business culture is very different than that in America.
“They are less risk-takers. Ideas are more thought through before they are pitched to venture capitalists, so the projects are well received by investors," he said. "There are less risks of failure that way. I learned this approach can lead to a lot of missed opportunities, but also a higher success rate.”
Gad, who already spoke Arabic but had to pick up some of the French language spoken in the markets, chose to travel to Morroco, where he enjoyed the beaches and ancient ruins. He said he would encourage any student who may be hesitant about traveling to take the plunge.
“Just do it,” he said, adding there were excursions and lots of friendly students in addition to his host family.
“I never had a second thought about safety. I was never alone. I really enjoyed it and thought they program was very well done,” he said.
McBride, who studied in Berlin, said he found the efficiency of the German rail transportation system impressive.
“They have 20 lines and run about 5 or 6 at a time, every five or 10 minutes all day long,” McBride said. He said while he was fairly fluent in German already, he picked up a lot of colloquialisms.
Atkinson, who studied in Madrid, Spain, said the program encouraged free roaming in the city.
“They gave us free time to explore the city and take the metro. I learned it’s OK to get lost and have to communicate with people to find your way again. It gave me confidence to go to new places,” he said. “I can’t wait to travel again, maybe to Greece this summer.”
Chamorro, who spent the summer in Toulouse, France, said she learned quite a bit from living with her host family. She studies French at Egg Harbor Township High School.
“In school we learn a lot of grammar, but while living there I got to learn more about their food, their culture and music,” she said.
While most of the students have spent time learning the language of their selected countries through classes at the school, Nicole Del Conte said she did not know any Italian before she chose to spend the summer in Ferrara, Italy.
“I thought it was a great opportunity and I’d just figure it out while I was there,” she said.
The host family she lived with was a few miles from the school where her summer course were held, so she rode a bike to class each day and had to navigate the signs and directions on her own.
“I got lost a lot,” she said with a laugh. “I did use Google translate a lot, but I learned more about myself than the language, to be honest. I learned I can travel on my own. It was a great experience, and I learned how to be more independent. I definitely plan to travel more.”