Waukon High School student Olivia Marti awarded scholarship to study in Germany through Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program

Olivia Marti ...

by Julie Berg-Raymond

Olivia Marti, who completed her freshman year at Waukon High School this past May, has been selected for the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program (CBYX). The program will send Marti, age 15, to live and study in Germany this fall for her sophomore year, with an August 21 departure date currently planned.

A highly competitive program (in recent years, the admission rate has been less than two percent), CBYX is a “unique, fully-funded scholarship program giving young people ages 15-18 a first-hand experience of the importance of international friendship and cooperation, which rests on shared political and cultural values” (www.germany.info/us-en/welcome/language-study-research/cbyx/1306006).

“I learned about this program through my older sister, Alex, who had studied abroad in China during high school,” Marti says. “She was a crucial part in supporting me through the application process, making me feel like I could do it and helping me with any troubles I was having. Since then, I have found many reasons as to why this trip will be helpful in my future career and aspirations. New cultures are an exciting thing to experience, and I am excited about getting out of my comfort zone and meeting new people.”

The application process was extensive and involved several weeks - from last October through December. Applicants had to fill out forms describing their community service activities, sports, academic standings, and other factors about their academic lives and activities - including brief explanations of the activities and how many hours they spent each week on each one.

Among the many activities in which Marti participates are FFA, cross country, wrestling, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), speech, individual speech and student council. “I love staying involved in any way possible, and I intend to continue giving my all by trying any new opportunities in Germany,” she says.

Applicants also had to submit several teacher recommendations, parent recommendations, and supervisor recommendations - and write five to seven essays on varied topics, as well as a personal essay.

Although CBYX is a full scholarship program, Marti is still responsible for passport and visa fees, purchasing a laptop, and other smaller expenses for her travels. “To overcome these challenges, I held a fundraiser for selling cake balls and intend to create more fundraisers prior to my travels,” she says.
Marti says a lot of people have asked her what she will be studying in Germany, and she notes that as a high school student, she doesn’t get to decide much of her academic schedule. “For the most part my schedule is made for me,” she says. “I will be studying mainly German culture and language; and I will be given the opportunity to take classes such as math and science. I will attend a regular public school and live with a host family.”

While her mother, Elisha, says she is going to “miss her like crazy,” she knows what an important experience this will be for her daughter. “This will be the first of many life-changing experiences for her,” she says. “I’m so happy she is brave enough to accept it. She will represent the U.S. with integrity, kindness and love. The family who will get to spend the next nine months with her will be blessed to know her, and I’m sure she will be blessed by her time with them.”

Marti’s father, Richard, says “Olivia is an amazing young person, and she has worked very hard to be where she’s at; I admire her drive and determination. Her family and I are very proud of her - watching my children’s accomplishments and adventures gives me more joy than anything else.”

Aside from telling her about the program and helping her apply, Marti’s oldest sister, Alex, has long been an inspiration to her. “She has always given her all and helped me in ways that I don’t know how I could ever thank her enough for,” she says. “She pushes me in everything that I do and encourages me to give my all and always try my best. She helps me to know that any opportunity is a gift and a blessing.”

Similarly, Marti says her second-oldest sister, Gabby, has inspired her to grow and learn. “She helps me in accomplishing any of my goals and helps me to know that I can do anything that I set my mind to. My freshman year she gave me a tour of the Iowa State campus and helped me to decide what careers may interest me,” Marti says.

She credits her grandmother, Annabelle Marti, with showing her the importance of perseverance. “Listening to her stories of the earlier stages of her life help me to know that no matter what I’m doing or where I’m at, I can accomplish anything and make memories,” she says. “She showed me that every decision we make contributes to a life; it builds memories and tells a story.”

Marti says she looks forward to making new memories and continuing to live her own story during her sojourn in Germany. “I am excited for everything that is to come in this journey and even more excited to share it when I come back,” she says. “This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and I couldn’t be more grateful.”