Winter Garden resident Marli Watson has earned a scholarship to study in Germany. She leaves for her 10-month experience in August.
Samara “Marli” Watson is a seasoned traveler, and she’s about to add even more stamps to her passport when she participates in a 10-month foreign exchange program in Europe in the fall.
She is one of 250 students from the United States selected for the U.S. State Department scholarship through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange. She was chosen based on her grade-point average and several essays she wrote on topics such as handling conflict, participating in competitive swimming and taking a family road trip around the country.
“It’s basically to give them an idea of who you are and your background,” she said.
Marli, who is home-schooled, will live with a host family in Germany for her senior year of high school. As soon as she learned of the scholarship, she delved into learning German.
When she arrives in Germany in August, she will stay in a castle near Frankfurt and participate in language-immersion classes before moving in with her host family.
There is also the getting-to-know-you period.
The Watsons have written letters for the German family, which has not yet been selected, so the hosts will know important information, such as sports, religious affiliations and food allergies. The more details that are shared, the better the host family match, Marli’s mother, Shannon Watson, said.
She will attend school and absorb the German culture with her temporary family.
Once she’s in Germany, Marli won’t see her parents until after the new year.
“Christmas is a very important holiday in Germany, so they want to make sure you spend the holiday with your host family,” Shannon Watson said.
Marli is familiar with the foreign-exchange program since she has grown up with students in her home.
Her parents, Rob and Shannon Watson, of Winter Garden, hosted students for several years. Shannon Watson also was a foreign-exchange student through the program years ago.
Traveling will always be at the top of Marli’s bucket list. In 2014, she saw much of Europe in the People to People program. This upcoming excursion to Germany was ignited by a seven-month road trip her family took a few years ago.
“I’ve always known I wanted to do something with travel in my life,” Marli said. “I love travel. I love meeting new people and having new experiences.
“I’ve always joked that it would be nice to get paid to go on vacation,” she said. “I thought about being a flight attendant.”
In addition to traveling, Marli enjoys art and has sold a few polymer clay Harry Potter figurines she made. She is taking a mythology class. She has been a member of the varsity swim team at Ocoee High School for two years.
She will work as a lifeguard this summer so she can purchase a camera and laptop. She intends to blog while she’s in Europe.
“My goal is to immerse myself in the German culture, learn the language and build a relationship with my host family and the people I meet,” Marli said. “Everything else I get to do will be a bonus.”
She will return home next June.