Student Spotlight: Alondra Carreon’s year in Germany
February 2, 2018
Recently, the staff of Tornado Press conducted an interview with Alondra Carreon, a senior attending South Texas BETA. Though she was supposed to have graduated in the spring of 2017, Alondra participated in a Rotary Youth Exchange Program in which she spent a year in Germany, thereby extending her secondary education. As such, she will be graduating with BETA’s Class of 2018.
Alondra is also an IB Diploma Candidate in the Education track and is an Ambassador to the IB program. She was courteous enough to share her story.
TP: What can you tell us about the Rotary Exchange Program?
Alondra: Rotary Youth Exchange Program is an organization within Rotary International, which was established in 1929. They send young people around the globe to experience new cultures and their vision is to create a more interconnected and understanding world. Their main goal is to promote peace by the means of young students experiencing different cultures. They thought that if a young student would experience and learn about a new culture, then they would gain an understanding and connection to that culture. So, by hosting and sponsoring students around the world, they hope to create a more interconnected world in the sense that people are more comfortable with different cultures and usher in peace to this world.
TP: Why did you choose to study in Germany?
Alondra: The reason why I chose Germany was because I wanted to learn a third language. And not just any language–I wanted to learn a language that was unique and at the same time, different from my own native language. Also, I wanted to learn a language that was beneficial to me in the future. In accordance with my own career goals, I want to study International Relations and I thought that German was going to be beneficial in the sense that around 140,000 people speak German and because Germany is the 3rd largest economy in the world. Basically, studying International Relations and becoming a diplomat consists of being able to communicate with other people around the world and being open to new cultures. And finally, I chose Germany because I knew that it had a very rich culture. I had a neighbor back then that had done an exchange year in Germany and every time I would listen to her stories, I would be fascinated by all that she experienced in Germany.
TP: Was is hard for you to leave your original class behind?
Alondra: Yes, indeed it was very difficult to leave my original class behind. But not only that, it was also extremely difficult to leave my family, my friends, my language, my culture, and my comfort zone behind. Everything that surrounded me and made me who I am today. Leaving it all behind was very difficult and of course the first few days and weeks were difficult and a little uncomfortable in Germany because I felt the culture shock.
TP: Do you think having taken IB courses prior to traveling to Germany helped you in your transition to their style of education?
Alondra: Yes, indeed they were very helpful during my exchange year since I was already looking at the world from a global standpoint. IB not only teaches an American curriculum, but it’s also embedded in world-wide education systems. When I was in Germany, I realized that the grading system was similar to how IB grades since they use marks instead of points. The courses were also categorized similarly with some classes being Higher Level and Standard Level.
TP: What do you think you learned from studying abroad that you don’t think you would have known otherwise?
Alondra: I think the most important lesson that I can extract from my exchange year was how to be openminded. Openminded in the sense that you have to accept others for who they are despite their differences. Whether it be differences in culture, differences in mentality, differences in language, you have to become openminded to new friends, new food, new people and be able to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. I remember we would be sitting at the dinner table with my host families and there would be days when they would cook food that wasn’t necessarily tasteful to me but I still had to eat it because it was part of the program and it was part of integrating yourself into the new culture and trying things you’d never experienced before.
TP: Do you think you’ll study abroad in college?
Alondra: I would definitely study abroad in college. I’m actually aiming to study at a foreign university in the U.K. I’d also like to study perhaps a semester or two in different countries and get back to that global environment that I really enjoy.
TP: What are your plans as of now after you graduate?
Alondra: I’d like to obtain my IB Diploma and attend a university in the U.K. I’d also continue with my studies and pursue a bachelor’s degree in international relations.