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Fox Chapel Area senior sets sights on Germany

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Fox Chapel junior Aaron Bliss received one of about 250 year-long Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarships available to motivated high school students who want to fully immerse themselves in the German culture by living with a host family and attending a local high school.

With five years studying German under his belt, Fox Chapel Area senior Aaron Bliss is ready to say “guten tag” to a new life in Europe's most populated region.

“I was just so excited to hear the news,” Bliss said. “I was at a track meet when my dad got the call and it blew me away.”

Bliss, 17, earned the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship through which he will spend his senior year with a German family and attend a college prep high school.

“Aaron is a tremendous young man and I know he is going to represent his school and his country very well,” said German teacher Drew Richards.

Bliss is one of 250 students from across the country chosen for the award.

“I took German 5 in school last year which is the highest level you can go,” Bliss said. “I wondered what I was going to do with these abilities. I thought someday I'd like to go to Germany, and then I thought, why not now?”

Founded in 1983, the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship was created to strengthen ties between Germany and the United States through citizen diplomacy.

Its inception coincided with the 300th anniversary of the first German immigration to the United States.

The program is funded by the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag. Here, it is overseen by the federal Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Bliss sees his year abroad as a foundation for success in an increasingly global world.

He was drawn to the German language after a mandatory foreign language class in middle school.

“I didn't really like that we had to take a language class but I thought of Germany as a business-y kind of place and thought knowing the language could be useful,” he said. “I didn't expect to start enjoying it, but I did.”

Now, the Indiana Township teen listens to German music in his spare time among other pastimes that include cross country, biking and playing Frisbee.

He's preparing to leave in early September for a program introduction in Washington, D.C., and then it's on to Germany for 11 months.

Part of the academic exchange requires Bill to travel to Berlin to address the German House of Parliament.

He hasn't spoken yet with his host family. In fact, Bliss isn't even sure which city or state he'll be living in.

It's part of the adventure, he said.

“It's going to be a big change,” he said. “I won't be with my family and friends but I'll make new ones. I really have no hesitations.”

The only downside, Bliss said, is that he'll miss graduation with his Fox Chapel Area classmates.

“The German school year is longer, so I'll be home a short bit after my American friends are out of school,” he said. “It's a sad thing but the rewards and opportunities far outweigh it.”

Bliss plans to study biology in college.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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