BUCKHANNON — A very fortunate Buckhannon-Upshur High School student, Jenna Ramirez, will embark on the adventure of a lifetime later this year. She just received confirmation that she’s been accepted by the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program to study abroad in Germany this fall. Ramirez will attend an orientation in Washington D.C. August 8-9, then travel to Germany on August 10.
She is currently a junior and lives in Buckhannon with her father, Rigoberto Ramirez III. Although her father will miss her tremendously, she said he is very excited and supportive of her upcoming experience. Ramirez is a member of Educators Rising and recently won third place at the state competition in Canaan Valley. She won the award for the children’s book that she wrote and illustrated as her submission to the Preschool Literature Competition. Ramirez is also the Director of the Early Childhood Education simulated workplace at B-UHS.
Ramirez said she initially saw the message about this opportunity on her Live Grades notifications and it grabbed her attention because one of her best friends was a recent exchange student from Brazil. She said she has also become friends with a student from Germany who is currently studying at B-UHS and has been prepping her with what she can expect while living there. “I didn’t think I’d ever have an opportunity like this”, Ramirez stated, but she’s very pleased that her application was accepted.
She feels that the CBYX experience will help her to establish lifelong relationships and become fluent in another language. Ramirez said she thinks her biggest challenge will be transitioning from being Vegan for the past two years. She explained that she wants to immerse herself in the full cultural experience, which she said for her, includes eating whatever they do.
The CBYX was created in 1983 to strengthen ties between Germany and the United States through citizen diplomacy. According to their website, 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. Their site also boasts that over 24,000 students have prepared themselves for success in an increasingly global world by participating in this program.
CBYX is a U.S. State Department sponsored program so the full cost of a student’s year abroad is covered, which is estimated at over $10,000. Recipients of this scholarship will be admitted into an elite community of alumni of U.S. State Department programs. Ramirez will be responsible for her own spending money, but the basics will be covered. Eligibility for a CBYX scholarship requires the student to be a U.S. citizen between the ages of 15 and 18 years and 6 months old on August 1 of the program departure year. They must also be a current high school student at the time of application, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale.
Previous German language experience is not required, but Ramirez said she will attend a language camp during her first month there since she does not speak German yet. The program stresses equality and accessibility to applicants and CBYX is dedicated to selecting students who represent the diversity of the United States.
Ramirez said the application process was very stringent and students wishing to participate are evaluated for acceptance based upon their written and oral communication skills, academic merit, and motivation for the cross-cultural experience. Hopeful applicants must also display evidence of the personal qualities essential for adjustment to another culture, such as flexibility, curiosity, open-mindedness, sense of humor and tolerance for adversity.
As a Congress-Bundestag scholar, Ramirez will be placed with a carefully selected German host family where she will attend a German high school, meet government officials and experience cultural excursions to the German Bundestag and select German cities. She said since she will be turning 18 in October, she is hoping to get the chance to travel to some neighboring countries during her placement as well. In the future, she has aspirations to attend medical school and possibly become an oncologist.