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Salem graduate to embark on study-abroad program — and a crash course in German

| Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Marilyn Forbes | for Trib Total Media
Nola Ries packs up for Germany.

While most students would never dream of repeating their senior year of high school, Nola Ries of Salem will do just that in a foreign land, using a language she has yet to learn.

Ries, 18, graduated from Greensburg Salem High School in the spring but will soon be heading to Germany to attend school this fall.

She has taken four years of Spanish in high school, so a crash course in the German language will be one of her top priorities.

She will learn about German culture while living with a host family as she participates in the Congress-Burdestag Youth Exchange scholarship program through AFS Intercultural Programs, which started as the American Field Service.

“I looked into different types of scholarships because it was something that I really wanted to do,” Ries said. “I'll be one of 49 students who will be part of this from 13 different states.”

Ries will join the others on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where they will learn more about the expectations involved with the 10-month, travel-abroad program.

“We are going to talk about Germany and attend workshops about the program, then we will be arriving in Frankfort on Sept. 7,” Ries said.

She will be assigned a host family, will stay in their home after completing a period of orientation.

“I'll be with my host family, then in October and I will attend the local school,” Ries said, adding that it is essential that she learn German as quickly as possible.

Ries said that once students arrive, they will act as ambassadors. “We will be helping with U.S. and German relationships,” she said.

Ries underwent an arduous selection process.

“I had to write six papers and do several interviews,” Ries said. “There was a screening process and a one-on-one interview at the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh where they wanted to learn all about you. I also had to do group interviews.”

The selection committee noted that “her curiosity, open-mindedness, sense of humor and tolerance for adversity and cultural awareness made her a perfect candidate for the CBYX scholarship.”

At Greensburg Salem, Ries served as a senior mentor and was a member of the varsity lacrosse team and the yearbook staff. She worked as a personal care assistant for a senior independent living center.

Ries said she was glad she was not driving when she learned of her selection.

“I was out with some friends and I got the phone call,” Ries said. “When she told me I just screamed and screamed.”

Ries said that she is looking forward to the new experiences she hopes to enjoy, but she will miss her family.

“I know already that I will be homesick,” Ries said. “I'm going to miss everyone.”

Lisa and Tom Ries both said they were excited about their daughter's participation, but they will be sad to see her go.

“I'm so excited for her but I know it's going to be hard,” Lisa Ries said. “I cried when she called and told me that she was selected, but I am happy for her. This is something that she really, really wanted.”

Reis will return to her Salem home in July 2014.

She plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh to major in political science, concentrating on international relations.

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.