• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Students to experience summer school in far away lands

FOREIGN-BOUND Woodford County High School students Emma Sandman and Seth Allen will leave for India and China, respectively, in June and spend six weeks overseas. They were successful applicants to the U.S. State Department's National Security Language Initiative for Youth program. (Photo by John McGary)

While many of their classmates will be staying up late and sleeping in later this summer, Emma Sandman and Seth Allen will be early to bed and rise, half a world or so away. The Woodford County High School students will spend six weeks this summer in India and China as part of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth program. The U.S. State Department-sponsored agenda "provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students and recent high school graduates to learn less commonly taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs." For Emma, a junior, the trip abroad is a family tradition: elder sisters Rachel and Sara went to Morocco and China with the program, while the entire family lived in Brazil for six years. "It's all been positive," she said of her sisters' tales. "It's an experience of a lifetime. They have learned so much. Sara came back basically almost fluent in Chinese, since she spent (a year) there. She said it was definitely a very, very hard program, because the Chinese have very hard study habits . They got to see some really cool things, very much expand their borders, their horizons. ." The youngest Sandman will spend her time in Indore, India, the location for which she applied. "I kind of want to go into international and cultural affairs in college and hopefully a career in that, and I saw India as a country that is very rich in culture. They have Hinduism, they have all that background ." Emma said. She leaves June 29, by which time Seth will have been in Shanghai, China, for nearly a week. The sophomore prepared for his six weeks in the most populous city of the world's most populous nation by having taken Chinese language classes beginning in sixth grade, getting a Chinese tutor "recently," and studying a bit on his own. "Mostly, I'm just waiting to get there, because I can learn Chinese way better in China, when I'm around people who speak the language all the time. So it will be good to know some, but I think I can learn more when I'm there," Seth said. Seth said his typical day in Shanghai will begin with four hours of Chinese language instruction and include three hours of free time in the afternoon. Other activities will include cooking, calligraphy and tai chi classes and weekend outings to cultural sites with, during the two weeks he'll spend with them, his host family. Neither Seth nor Emma say they'll mind what, compared to their friends back home, will be a somewhat regimented schedule. "Honestly, a month-and-a-half is not that long. So when I get over there, I'm going to start doing stuff as soon as possible. And waking up, really, is not that big a deal. So I see it honestly as more fun," she said. "I think it's a really good opportunity. It'll be fun, but the main reason to go is to learn the language. Learning Chinese will be important in the future, so if I know the language, that will really help," Seth said. Emma said she looks forward to living in a dormitory for six weeks - and the curry and other spice-filled foods of India. "Don't get me wrong - I may get a little upset stomach the first couple of days, but I'm definitely going to dive into whatever they have there," Emma said. The pair of soon-to-be foreign scholars are not only going to different continents, but also prepared for the application process in different ways. Emma said while she had no prior knowledge of the Hindi language, she sent in her transcripts, wrote "a bunch" of essays and worked on her application for six or seven months. Seth, blushing, admitted that aside from his Chinese language classes, he kept putting off the application process until the day before it was due. "I had to stay home from school and work on it, which was terrible, missing school," he said, tongue firmly in cheek. The expenses of each, including the flights, will be paid for by the program. (Emma said she'll also receive a small stipend). Each has been prepped by web seminars, which sparked questions that made the two Woodford County kids shake their heads. "All these people kept asking questions like, 'Will we have to use the squat toilets and will they have Internet?' and I was like, 'It's China. Shanghai is pretty developed ." Seth said. "A lot of people have a lot of preconceived notions of these other countries that I'm going to come back like with a dot (a Bindi, worn by some Indian women) on my head ." Emma said with a laugh. Of course, what will matter more to state department officials, their parents, teachers and themselves is not what will be on their heads, but in them.

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