We are pleased to announce Annika Wendel as the March 2023 CBYX German Participant of the Month! Annika, a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) Young Professionals participant placed by Cultural Vistas, is hosted in Emporia, Kansas.
Annika is focused on making her exchange year her “Yes Year” – a year when she says yes to as many opportunities as possible even if they are outside of her normal comfort zone. She is accomplishing this by being an active member of the Emporia community in many ways.
She volunteers teaching German to her peers at Emporia State University (ESU) as part of their language courses, and helps students recognize cultural differences while providing appropriate vocabulary that suits their knowledge. She believes this is also a good way to meet ESU students and learn about the U.S. educational system. She also takes opportunities to talk about the CBYX program and studying abroad. This gives other students the motivation and self-confidence to choose such a path, and some of her friends are now considering exchange opportunities in the near future, including CBYX. Her school also reports that the popularity of their study abroad programs has increased since she arrived!
Annika strives to improve the well-being of people in her community and tries to create inclusive environments. She is an active member of ESU’s Pride Club, which aims to increase LGBTQ+ rights, support, and awareness on campus and the larger Emporia community. Through this club, she volunteered at a shelter for homeless youth, will give a presentation on the LGBTQ+ community in Germany, and will help at events during Diversity Month in April. With her background in IT, she is also leading an effort to make the website for the school’s Office of International Education, where she is doing her internship, more accessible.
Outside of her activities at ESU, Annika also presented to local high school students whose native language is Spanish. The presentation had two components: one about dyslexia and the other about Germany. Annika stressed that the students can always talk about their struggles and that they should talk to their teachers to get help. The students later told their teacher that the presentation gave them new ways of handling their language issues and made them feel more comfortable talking more openly about their issues. They also learned about Germany and exchange programs, and Annika is in contact with one student who is thinking about applying for the CBYX program.
Annika says, “Exchange programs give the opportunity to get exposed to new ideas, customs, beliefs, and values that can open up whole new perspectives on life!” Annika is not only taking advantage of her opportunity, but she’s also helping and inspiring others in her community to learn about different cultures.