From July 2011 to July 2012, University of Houston communications junior Carlos Valenzuela will call Germany home after being awarded the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals Scholarship.
Valenzuela is one of 75 recipients out of 550 students who applied for the program from across the nation.
“I’m going to be the first one from UH to be awarded the scholarship, so I feel pretty good and proud,” Valenzuela said. “But I feel like I have a responsibility to not only represent my country (US), but also UH.”
The organization was looking for individuals that are diplomatic, flexible, and are passionate in their career field, as well as have working experience, said Amy Stiegler, program specialist for the program.
While in Germany, Valenzuela, along with the other students, will spend the first two months in intensive language course training to help them assimilate to the country.
Luckily for Valenzuela, he has been speaking German for three years now.
“It’s going to help on the internship level, and it’s a plus,” Valenzuela said. “Working in the German environment it’ll make it easier to communicate with my co-workers.”
After the language courses, Valenzuela will spend four months studying at a German university. The remaining five months will be spent at an internship of his choice.
“It’s unlike any other typical study abroad program,” Stiegler said. “It’s significant because in today’s economy, where it is really tough to find a job, someone can see on their resume that they were able to find an internship in Germany (and that) really gives them a leg up on other applicants.”
As far as getting homesick, Valenzuela said he doesn’t know when or if it will hit him, but he did get to talk to some of the current participants of the program.
“They told me, ‘The first three months you’re all excited about being there, that you forget about your family and don’t call them,’” Valenzuela said.
“But they told me, ‘When those three months are over, you’ve established yourself and … the excitement is over, that’s when you start getting homesick.’”
The Bundestag, Germany’s national parliament, and the US Congress, through the US Department of State, fund the yearlong program.
As part of the program, 75 German students will spend an entire year in the US living and working.
Stiegler said the program began in 1983 to represent the 300th anniversary of the first German settlements in America.