published: Friday, June 22, 2012
South Lake teen to spend her summer in Finland
ROXANNE BROWN | Staff Writer
Clermont's Isabella Sanchez-Mendoza, 15, a student at South Lake High School, is off to Helsinki, Finland, for six weeks this summer as a youth ambassador.
She is one of 12 recipients of a nationwide scholarship awarded by the Finland-US Senate Youth Exchange -- administered through Youth for Understanding USA -- which will allow her to live and study in Finland as a "typical Finnish teenager."
"I am so excited," Isabella said. "I can't wait to really get to see and try new things there. I am excited about tasting the food, learning about their culture and getting to know new people."
Isabella competed nationally for the chance to live with a volunteer host family and attend academic classes at a high school in Finland as part of Youth For Understanding USA, and educational nonprofit organization.
According to information provided by the organization, the 12 scholars will attend a brief orientation in Washington, DC, on June 27, which will provide them with an introduction to Finnish language and culture. They will visit their state Senators and be briefed at the Finnish Embassy, where they will also attend a reception with the Finnish Ambassador.
"While in Finland, the FUSYE scholars will meet foreign dignitaries, learn skills and perspectives necessary to meet the challenges of today and become familiar with the opportunities our global community offers," a press release said.
Of the planned activities and program goals, Isabella said she hopes that her experience in Finland will give her a better prospective of how life can be similar and how it's different in different countries.
Already, after a little research, Isabella said she has learned that in Finland, many people have summer homes and education, including universities and colleges, are free for everyone. She also became more curious about Finland, because to her, it seems like the country is somewhat secluded and not well visited.
"No one really knows anything about Finland," Isabella said, adding she is only nervous about conversing there, since the main spoken languages are Finish, Swedish and a little English.
In her host family's home, however, she said there are two teenage girls, ages 15 and 18, who speak English.
Isabella said she's been texting them through Facebook and all are anticipating her arrival.
Maria Mendoza, Isabella's mother, said she is excited for the opportunity presented to her daughter and thinks the experience will be a positive one.
Mendoza said she is also excited about Isabella's meeting with the Finnish Anbassador.
"It's a good opportunity because she's actually gonna have dinner with the ambassador of Finland. To meet the ambassador of a foreign country, like that is a big honor," she said.
Isabella said she encourages other students to apply for similar scholarships, adding that the process was not as difficult as she'd anticipated, mainly involving numerous written essays, a qualifying GPA and significant volunteer hours.
Opportunites to visit other countries, such as Japan, are also available.
For information, students may call 800-TEENAGE or visit www.YFU-USA.org.