Fifteen-year-old earns year-long trip to Germany through exchange program.
Sydney Hetterich knew her request would be a hard sell.
After several weeks of dropping subtle hints when her mother, Teri Hetterich, returned from work, the 15-year-old Lakewood Ranch High student presented a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation to her parents on why she wanted to spend a year in Germany.
She had never spent more than a couple nights away from her home in GreyHawk Landing.
“It’s a learning experience to help me become more independent," Hetterich said. "There was no reason for them not to let me go other than they would miss me"
Her slideshow proved effective. Hetterich is leaving in August to spend her junior year in Germany through the Rotary Club of Bradenton’s youth exchange program.
“Sydney was very convincing with her arguments,” Teri Hetterich said, laughing. “We could tell she really wanted to go, and it isn’t like her to make an elaborate presentation to ask to do something.”
After her presentation in November, Hetterich's parents, Teri and Robert Hetterich, gave her the OK to apply for the program.
One German student will travel to the Bradenton area in exchange for Hetterich, and 80 students statewide are studying overseas next school year, for six months to a year.
In Germany, Hetterich will live with a host family, which hasn’t been chosen. She will attend a high school, yet to be selected, every day by train, an experience she’s excited about.
She welcomes the transition from a school bus or carpooling with her friends to public transportation.
“I’ve never been on a train,” Hetterich said. “That’s one thing I’m most excited about, other than experiencing a different culture and food, and meeting new people."
She will document her experiences once a week on a YouTube channel she will create soon.
“I’ll spend about five to 10 minutes each week telling my family and friends about my day, what I experienced and how I’m progressing with the language,” Hetterich said. “It will be interesting to see how excited I am in week one, and by week three I’m sure I’ll miss my parents and friends.”
She won’t be using her Instagram or calling family or friends for at least the first few months. She said she also wants to “fully immerse herself” in the culture, so not communicating in English is key to her learning her new culture.
Hetterich, who speaks very little German, isn’t going to speak English in Germany.
“I can say, ‘Hi, I’m Sydney,’ and a few other phrases,” Hetterich said. “But I have a long way to go. It’s going to be strange, and hard, not to be able to communicate like I want to.”
To prepare for the trip, she uses a Dual Lingo application on her phone to learn German a few nights a week.
She also uses FaceTime to talk with her friend, Sophia Sparkle, who lives in Germany and was a foreign exchange student at Lakewood Ranch High last year.
Hetterich hopes she lives in Hamburg, the second largest city in Germany, which is within a couple hours from Sparkle.
She will also tour Paris, Rome, Florence, the Czech Republic and other areas during her stay, which ends in August 2017, just before the start of her senior year.
Once she returns, Hetterich will give a presentation to the Rotary Club of Bradenton on her experiences in Germany.
The club sponsors the trip, which will cost about $5,500.
Hetterich said she received the opportunity because of her extensive volunteer work for groups such as Habitat for Humanity and Prospect Riding Center, a therapeutic riding facility in Myakka.
The East County student plans to join clubs at her new high school, and prove to her parents that her months of pleading to go on the trip weren’t just to get out of the house.
“We will miss her so much,” Teri Hetterich said. “But this will be a great experience for her, one that some people never get. We might go visit her, but she said she wanted us to wait until the end of her trip. How amazing is it that my daughter will be able to show us around a foreign country, one she has made her home for the last year? It’s a special experience.”