After completing her Harper College associate degree this May, Stephanie Bemis planned to pursue a bachelor's degree in education close to home. Instead, she'll head across the Atlantic for a hands-on yearlong fellowship in Germany.
Bemis was one of only 75 students chosen nationwide for this year's prestigious Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals, a 30-year-old exchange program sponsored by the Fulbright-Hays Act. Bemis competed with 600 other applicants for the coveted slots, most of which went to students who'd already finished a four-year degree.
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The Algonquin resident, a standout student in Harper German classes, will spend two months in an intensive German language course, four months at a German university and five months completing an internship in Early Childhood Education.
Bemis says the skills she'll gain should help when she eventually leads her own classroom.
"I'm looking forward to learning how German schools operate and interacting with the German teachers to see what new procedures could be incorporated into American classrooms," she says. "Having done this, I will be able to advocate for diversity and incorporate international aspects into lesson plans to broaden the horizons of my students."
Bemis, who began taking German in high school, was recommended for the program by Harper Instructor Kim Jaeger-Nicholas.
"This experience is tailored to fit the needs of each student, which makes it incredibly worthwhile and helps participants become more competitive in the job market," Jaeger-Nichols says. "The immersion of working and studying in Germany is far better than any classroom setting."
Harper has hosted visiting German students for the last three years as part of the program, but this is the first time a fellow was chosen from Harper to travel abroad.