In an effort to strengthen German-American ties and to celebrate the 300th year anniversary of the first German immigration to the United States, the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag created the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) scholarship in 1983. This scholarship involves several different programs, including a vocational scholarship, which provides 25 U.S. high school graduating seniors the opportunity to spend one year in Germany immersing themselves in the culture by living with German families, attending schools and interning in their chosen career field. Several years after their experience abroad, three of Florida’s CBYX alumni share how the program has shaped their lives.
University of Florida (UF) graduate, Jason Boes, participated in the CBYX program from 2000 to 2001, after he graduated from high school. Jason believes the program was beneficial to the success of his career.
“The experience gave me an understanding of how to interact with individuals of other cultures and backgrounds in a way that I never would have experienced otherwise,” said Jason. During his stay in Germany, Jason completed a two-month language training program, lived in Hamburg with a host family of four siblings, and found an internship in business operations.
Since his return to the states, Jason has completed a BA in Finance, and an MBA from Arizona State University. He began his professional career at Intel, and in 2013, moved to Jacksonville, Fla. to work for CSX railroad.
The CBYX alumnus attributes his success to the German language skills he acquired and the leadership experience he gained when he traveled to Austria and Switzerland during his internship to train teams on the implementation of new software.
Animal-loving, Palm Bay local, Meghan Wolfgram, ventured to Germany for the program in 2008, where she interned at a breeding, boarding and training stable working with Dressage horses. Today, Meghan is the founder and co-owner of Swift Paws, a manufacturer of dog lure chasing equipment and operator of lure chasing events.
She also works closely with her local 4-H horse program, where she trains and rides horses. Meghan describes her experience in the CBYX program as an invaluable learning opportunity that put her ahead in her career. According to her, the exchange was an “unparalleled experience that has put me above and beyond (what) anyone my age could hope to achieve without such a program.”
Designer Melinda Alderman got her start by interning at a small independent theatre in Cologne during her stay in Germany as a CBYX program participant in 2006. Additionally, she was able to learn about the rich and unique culture of the city.
Upon returning to the states, she enrolled in UF’s theatre program, but later transferred to the University of South Florida where she specialized in costume design and graduated with a BFA in Theatre Design. Meghan went on to design wedding gowns while she lived in Tampa and now lives in Nashville where she is developing a “made-in-America” clothing line.
“After living in Germany, a county which still has a thriving and high-quality production culture, I am inspired to work toward opening a factory where I can design and produce quality clothing with American-made fabrics,” said Melinda.
All three CBYX alumni continue to have close relationships with their host families, speak fondly of their year in Germany and attribute a great part of their career success to this experience.
To get more information on the scholarship program they participated in, go to http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/programs/cp_bundestag.asp. To learn more about all the CBYX programs, visit http://www.usagermanyscholarship.org/.
Author: Claudia Claussen serves as the public information specialist in the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Communications and External Affairs.