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Sioux Center student picked for prestigous study program in Germany | Education

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – Sioux Center High School student Claire Opdahl is one of 250 students across the United States selected to spend a year in Germany.

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Opdahl have been selected for the Congress-Bundestag You Exchange Scholarship, a U.S. Department of State fully funded exchange program. Students who participate in the program learn about German culture by living with a host family and attending a German high school for a year.

Opdahl began searching for a study abroad program in August 2021. She wanted to see other experiences outside of Sioux Center and has wanted to travel.

The main problem: most programs are expensive, upwards of $16,000 for a year.

“A lot of people see that and stop there but I was like ‘I’m not going to stop there, I’m going to see if there are any scholarships,’” she said.

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There are a variety of scholarship-based study-abroad programs, but Opdahl had previously taken a DNA test to find out her genetic history. She found out that she is 70 percent German.

Opdahl had to write five short essays, a letter to the potential host family, two recommendation letters, and research information on local government representatives. In November she did a virtual interview and then heard nothing for several months.

Five or six months later, Opdahl received confirmation that she was a semifinalist and shortly after, was accepted for the program.

Opdahl‘s mother, Connie, said she felt it was meant to be. She said it’s not going to be an easy year, but the whole family is supportive of her.

She said Claire likes to see “outside of the box” and wants to branch out from the traditional student direction.

Opdahl said it doesn’t feel real yet. She leaves August 16 for a language camp where she will spend a month before meeting her host family.

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She will live in Brühl, Germany as a junior at Max-Ernst-Gymnasium school. Her host family has three sisters, but one will be studying abroad in Texas while Opdahl is there.

“They really like traveling which I hope to be able to do,” she said.

Opdahl has immune thrombocytopenia, and autoimmune disorder. She said it limits the activities she can do, such as athletics, but has been in remission for three years.

Since she has been restricted in the types of athletics she can do, it has pushed her to find other activities in life to follow.

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The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange was started in 1983 and is available to students, recent graduates and young professionals in 11 states.

Before even going on the trip, she has been creating new connections because of people in the community that have been to Germany of has a connection to Germany.

The program was created by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The department promotes international mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through a range of academic, cultural, private-sector, professional and sports exchange programs.

It is administered by Youth for Understanding USA which also offers a wide range of opportunities for people to see the world.

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