Camas High School student Emma McBride is one of 65 students nationwide accepted into the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program, which allows her to spend the upcoming school year studying abroad in Ghana.
The program offers a full one-year scholarship for students to study in countries with significant Muslim populations, with a goal to promote mutual understanding between the U.S. and the host countries through the formation of relationships with local communities.
The scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
McBride, 16, who traveled to Washington D.C. in June for a pre-departure orientation, said there’s an estimated 2,000 people who apply for the scholarship each year.
“I was in awe because that just made me feel so excited to get the chance to study abroad out of all of those applicants,” she said. “So I’m really hoping that in the future more students from Camas will try to study abroad, whether it’s through that scholarship or just on their own because not (many students) have.”
While in Ghana, McBride will live with a host family and attend a local school.
McBride said she’s most excited to live with the host family in a completely new environment than what she’s used to in Camas.
“I’m interested to see what the food is like, what the education system is like and just going to school and meeting people that are my age, but that I would have never gotten the chance to meet otherwise,” she said.
McBride said she looks forward to participating in extracurricular activities and sports during her study.
While in Ghana, McBride will complete a capstone project that can range from creating a cookbook of local dishes to a project that connects her Camas home with her host community.
“I thought it’d be interesting to find something that involves the community in Camas in some way,” McBride said. “So I’m still finding out how I can do that or what the logistics could be, but I definitely want to do something on the larger scale.”
While English is the official language spoken in the West African country, there are local dialects that McBride said she hopes to learn, so that she can have small conversations with her host family by the end of her stay.
The program covers 12 countries and Ghana was in McBrides top five choices, she said.
This opportunity to be exposed to different cultures is important to McBride.
“It’s definitely going to build up my independence and just my exposure on how the world works outside of Camas, outside of Washington and outside of the U.S. in general,” McBride said. “It’s definitely opening up my opportunities not only career wise but also just thinking about colleges and studying abroad any other time in my life. I’m really excited to see how it changes me.”
To follow McBride throughout her school year experience in Ghana, visit her blog at emmacmcbride.wixsite.com/mindthegap.