A year abroad
Former exchange student Teresa Ho Sze-nga encourages teenagers to apply for AFS scholarships to broaden their minds and gain experiences.
One of the participants in AFS Intercultural Exchanges in 2002-03, Teresa returned to Hong Kong in July after spending a year in Pasewalk, Germany.
With only one day left before the application deadline, Teresa urges students to submit their forms. 'I can guarantee it would be an extraordinary experience,' says the Form Six student at Lui Cheung Kwong Lutheran College.
'If you are ready to take one year off to study abroad, don't miss this chance. You'll never regret it.'
During her days in Pasewalk, Teresa was able to see and experience a different part of the world and learn to live independently.
'Pasewalk is a small town, about 1.5 hours from Berlin by train,' she says. 'It was my first time being so far away from my parents. Luckily, my foster parents and two sisters were very friendly and took good care of me. I was able to adapt without too many problems.'
The first few weeks were the toughest due to the language barrier.
'I couldn't speak any German when I got there,' Teresa says. 'Although my schoolmates spoke English, I had trouble talking to the older people who spoke only German.'
Teresa's German slowly improved and she found school more fun. 'I went to Gymnasium Oskar Picht. The word 'gymnasium' means school in German,' she says. 'I started in Grade 10, but got promoted to Grade 12 after six months. At first I didn't understand what the teachers said, but after a while I picked up the language bit by bit.
'I liked the art classes very much as they were different from the classes in Hong Kong. Teachers talked about art history and architecture, instead of painting and drawing all the time.'
During holidays, Teresa travelled around the country with her friends, learned how to make German cakes and joined parties organised by AFS and her foster family.
'I will never forget my foster family and friends there ... and of course my 'mum's' cooking,' she says. 'Everyone says I have become more independent since I came back from Germany and I've found myself more proactive in organising school activities.'
The AFS offers scholarships to students aged 15 to 18, who must make a good impression during the selection interviews. Without a scholarship, the total cost of a one-year exchange trip to Europe is about $70,000 plus spending money.
'The most important thing is your determination to experience a new life and meet new friends from different cultural backgrounds,' Teresa adds. 'Be prepared to be a bit lost at the beginning, but once you've adjusted things will be easier.'
For more information, call Ms Chung at 2802 0383 (extension 103) or visit AFS Hong Kong's website at www.afs.org.hk.