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Kuettel headed to study abroad in Switzerland

by Ann Louise Granger

While her peers shop for school supplies and have their last pool days before another year of at school, one Polk County student is packing her suitcases for a journey to Switzerland to learn in an unfamiliar place.

Halle Kuettel, through AFS Intercultural Programs and a scholarship from the Polk County Community Foundation, will live with a host family for 11 months in a town just a 20-minute train ride outside of the country’s biggest city, Zurich.

“I’m excited for everything, really. I guess mainly just getting to meet new people and learning how different Europe is than America,” said Kuettel. “I’m hoping I can realize how different the world is. The world is more than us here in America.”

Lone Krarup, a local AFS representative, said usually between one or two students from this area exchange every year to places all over the world. Kuettel is studying in Switzerland, last year a Polk County student ventured to France.

The process to study abroad is a long one. It starts with an interest in different cultures, researching different programs and getting in touch with a local AFS rep, said Krarup. Then you must begin the application process. The application is usually due around March for a program that begins the following summer, and involves paperwork, health certificates, photos and recommendations.

“And then you need to have an interview. This is to see if the interest is really yours, or your parents,” said Krarup.

Though the application is due in March, students usually start getting their applications together in September of the year prior. Once the application is in, “that curiosity towards other cultures and other people” is what AFS looks for, explained Krarup.

Applicants also need to be outgoing and self-assure.

“It’s not always easy to study abroad, especially when you don’t know the language very well for the first few months, so it’s necessary to be sure of yourself in unfamiliar situations,” Krarup said.

Above all AFS “definitely looks for curiosity, drive and personality,” said Krarup.

Kuettel fit the bill.

“I’ve always been really interested in other cultures. I took Chinese when I was younger,” explained Kuettel.