After graduation, many seniors have their bags packed for a new stage in life — often not too far from home.
Senior Megan Reuss’ plan is taking her halfway around the world.
The 17-year-old has lived in Lakewood Ranch for the last eight years, but soon will venture to Orebro, Sweden to study abroad.
She was accepted to Penn State, the University of Florida, the University of Denver and Northeastern University, but was stopped in her tracks when her two cousins told her about an exciting opportunity called the Rotary Youth Exchange that sends students all over the world. Through RTE, they not only will learn new ways of living and other languages, but they also will get first-hand experience about living in the cultures of other countries.
Members of the latest group of 76 students in the RYE program will head to different countries to live with new families and attend local schools for one year. These students, called Outbounds, will stay with a total of three host families over a 12-month period.
“I have always loved traveling, and to be able to have this opportunity is just amazing,” Reuss said.
Reuss filled out her application in the fall and learned of her acceptance and country last December.
“I never really knew much about Sweden, but when I was told by the Rotary Program that I was going to be living there, I became interested,” she said.
To familiarize themselves with their new homes and cultures, Outbound students are assigned a 12-page research project detailing different topics about their country, such as religion, government and education.
Reuss used the Rosetta Stone software program to learn basic Swedish.
At Lakewood, Reuss holds a better-than-4.0 grade point average and has participated in cross country, soccer and track. She will be part of the Gap Year Program, which means that although she already has completed four years of high school, she will take 12th grade level classes that won’t be included in her college transcript.
A popular sport that Reuss’ Swedish family is interested in is called orienteering. It’s similar to cross country, but athletes carry maps and compasses when they compete. The goal is to locate and race to check points along a course through the wilderness.
“I am stoked to be involved with orienteering,” Reuss said. “It should be something really fun that my family and I can do together.”
Life is going to be extremely different for Reuss, and not just because of the location change. Her family isn’t allowed to visit her until the last three months of her stay. Another challenge for her will be the amount of fish planned for the menus, which is much more than what she eats here.
She explained that each student is only allowed to bring two suitcases, each 50 pounds — not much room for heavy clothing. And because Sweden is so far north she expects to buy many warm jackets when she arrives.
The last month overseas, the Outbounds in Sweden will be take the Eurotour, a bus journey all over Europe. The Eurotour will give students a chance to experience the many famous sights and attractions. Reuss, who plans to major in international business, feels her year overseas is the perfect thing to experience before she starts college.
Although Reuss has always enjoyed trying something new, this is like nothing she has ever done.
“I am really excited, and not too nervous,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the cold weather, skiing, meeting all of the new people and experiencing all of the things Sweden has to offer.
“Oh, and Swedish fish are not really from Sweden,” she added.
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