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Connor Matteson Receives Highly Coveted Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship
North Tonawanda senior Connor Matteson will be joining an elite group of students to study in Germany for the 2016-2017 school year.
Every year the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs launch a highly competitive process to select 250 American students to receive a coveted scholarship that fully funds an academic year of study and cultural immersion. The scholarship is valued between $12,000 and $14,000 and is an extraordinary opportunity for students to act as “youth ambassadors”. The goal is for them to gain new perspectives on global current affairs and German social, economic and political life, all while learning the German language through day-to-day life, attending a local high school and living with a host family.
Connor said he knew he wanted the experience of living in Germany after spending almost three weeks in Germany with some of his German class. “I felt it wasn't long enough to really understand the culture and I knew if I won the scholarship, it would be the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Connor had to go through a lengthy application process that included an interview, writing essays, getting letters of recommendation and a medical exam to be in contention for the scholarship.
“I was so excited for him, but not at all surprised that he won the scholarship,” says his German teacher Robert Lucas. “He’s a great student and has been a member of our Academy of International Studies, he has taken Spanish since 7th grade and he has taken German for four years. He is has been an all-star student all along and he is a great candidate for the scholarship.”
Asked if he was nervous about living in Germany for a full year, Connor says his family has hosted some German students in the past because of an exchange program North Tonawanda School District has with a school in Hamburg. He is looking forward to reconnecting with them and also meeting new friends. “I am not sure what city I will be staying in since the host families pick who they want living with them. I am really looking forward to developing a relationship with my host family and staying in contact with them after I return home. I think that is going to be really cool to have a second family.”
He says that he thinks the experience is going to open a lot of doors for him. In his role of youth ambassador he will spend three days in Congress in Washington, D.C. before he leaves and then a couple days more when he returns. He will also meet with German government (Bundestag) officials once he is settled in Germany.
“I think the experience will help me to decide what I want to study in college. I am thinking something to do with languages and business relations. I know some of my friends who have studied abroad said when they came back they had a lot of offers for internships or someplace that they could start a job. That would be great.”
Connor says he would encourage every student to take a language. “I took Spanish and I had a 98 in that class and I thought, I like this foreign language stuff, let me see what else I can do so I took German. They are definitely one of those classes you look forward to during your day. Signing up for German completely changed my life. It’s going to be so nice to go to Germany. The few weeks I stayed there affected me so strongly, can you imagine what I can do in a year?”
Connor is pictured with his German teacher Robert Lucas.