Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More funding available for students interested in studying abroad

Each year, the Telluride R-1 School District sends a handful of high school students to exchange programs in countries such as Italy, Hungary, Japan and Sweden. And now more funding is available to help kids afford studying abroad next year.Since 1996 the Carstens Family Fund at the Denver Foundation has offered Telluride students need-based scholarships to study abroad through AFS Intercultural Programs, a worldwide organization offering exchange programs in more than 50 countries. The foundation recently added a merit-based scholarship to further encourage students to apply for exchange programs.

The scholarship was created when Bill Carstens a land developer who passed away six years ago saw the transformative experience studying abroad provided to Swiss students he hosted.The confidence and the growth in that two weeks really impressed him,said Cheryl Miller, Carstens’ daughter, who serves as the foundation’s adviser.My dad wanted to support exchanges because it’s such a life changing experience.Miller said the foundation has provided needs-based scholarships for AFS in the past, but now they will also offer a merit-based scholarship. They’re still in the process of figuring out the exact dollar amount.The foundation will give $10,000 to the Telluride AFS program: $2,000 to cover the cost of hosting students and the remaining $8,000 for student scholarships.

Enrollment for AFS opened this fall and will extend through the beginning of April. Miller encouraged interested students to apply sooner rather than later because host countries have a limit to how many students they will take. The most popular countries will fill up first.When a country is full for applicants, then the country is closed,she said.But you can still apply for countries that are not yet full.AFS programs typically last a year, and students spend that time with one family. Other programs, such as the Rotary Exchange, place students with multiple families throughout the year.In 2001, Stephen Allen studied abroad in Santiago, Chile during his junior year at Telluride High School through AFS.It was great,Allen said.The family that I got placed with was absolutely amazing. It was a pretty rich family life. I call them and speak with them on the phone once every six months or so.

Allen said he applied through AFS because it seemed to take care of all the details for his trip.There was a great support network, he said.We had regular check-ins with advisors in Chile. They really bent over backwards.Miller said that the foundation recommends students to study abroad their sophomore or junior year of high school. She also said that previous knowledge of a language is not required.For example, her son went to Hungary, and the program assumes that students don’t know Hungarian.AFS provides language classes while you’re there,Miller said.

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