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From Hi-Lights: PHS students take life-changing trips across globe

Posted November 7, 2016

NOTE: This article appeared in the October 2016 edition of the Plymouth High School newspaper, Hi-Lights. Look for a copy in the high school office.

By Grace Huibregtse
of the Hi-Lights staff

Thanks to the Council on International Exchange (CIEE) Global Navigators Scholarship, nine PHS students spent their summer learning about different parts of the world and making new friends.  From Botswana to Spain, these girls spent three weeks studying the language and culture, traveling all over their countries, and completing community service.

Seniors Cheyanne Grunow and Taylor Heyrman went to Mexico, senior Kaitlyn Heyrman went to Spain, senior Myah Palecheck went to Germany, senior Devin Sikora and junior Jenna Slabe went to Botswana, junior Logan Schreiber went to the Dominican Republic, and junior Hannah Stucke went to Chile.  

“This was the greatest month of my life.  I don’t even know how to describe it,” said Taylor, who went to Mexico for four weeks to study the country’s culture and language. “I wanted to travel and learn new things, and I definitely did.”

PHS was chosen to receive Global Navigator scholarships because of its Global Achievement Certificate, foreign language department trips, the AFS students program and many other highlights that made this school stand out, according to Spanish teacher Laura Koebel. PHS was one of four schools in Wisconsin to receive CIEE scholarships.

“It was the best month of my life,” Kaitlyn said. “Every person should experience this.” She stayed in Sevilla, Spain, for four weeks. In the evenings, she took intensive Spanish classes, and on weekends her program took trips to surrounding cities.  

Cheyanne and Taylor stayed in Guanajuato, Mexico.  Cheyanne loved the country and her host family so much that she still keeps in contact with them. “I plan to go back in March to visit,” she said.

Logan, who went to Santiago, Dominican Republic, also made a lasting connection with her host mom. “The hardest part about leaving was definitely saying goodbye to her,” she said. “I bonded with my host mom and improved my Spanish a lot. One day she even taught me how to dance bachacha in the kitchen when a commercial came on with Spanish music.”
This trip not only let students discover a new country, but also find a part of themselves. “This trip made me more independent as a person and it forced me to get comfortable with things I was uncomfortable with,” Kaitlyn said.

Global Navigator Scholarships are given out to encourage students to travel abroad and fully engage themselves into an international experience. They cover anywhere from 10 to 100 percent of the cost of tuition. Programs include language and culture, service and leadership, and global experience.  

“I think everyone interested in pursuing a language should apply to CIEE because it was just amazing,” Cheyanne said. “I learned so much about myself, Mexico and others that improved my life and lifestyle. I also gained a new perspective.”

Logan agreed, saying, “If you have any fears, conquer them because this trip is so worth it. There isn't a price I could put on this experience.”

Mrs. Koebel also recommends these opportunities to young students who wish to travel, because they not only open their eyes but also teach them values about their world. “Travel is crucial to building, understanding, and creating peace,”she said. “Once you’ve traveled, you’ve put yourself in other people’s shoes … it’s a life-changing experience.”

Students interested in taking a 2017 trip should apply by Dec. 1 for the best chance at scholarships and first choice destination. See Mrs. Koebel for details. “I would love for our students to be ambassadors for the state of Wisconsin and do good,” she said.