Sariah Germain, 16, will visit the country of her dreams when she travels to Japan in August through an AFS-USA international exchange program.
The daughter of Tina and Derek Germain, she will study in Japan for six months and live with a host family, putting her knowledge of Japanese culture and language to the test.
“What made me want to visit Japan was meeting an exchange student from Japan during my freshmen year. We shared an English class together, and I just found it so enthralling that she was so far away from home experiencing the complete opposite of her normal culture,” she said.
“That's when I knew I wanted to do the same. I enjoy everything about the Japanese culture, but I find it fascinating how different it is compared to American culture.”
The Valparaiso High School junior has been a member of the Japanese Club since her freshman year and has participated in the Japanese Olympiad for the past two years, with her team placing second overall in 2012.
In addition, she plans to minor in Japanese when she attends college for actuarial science.
Germain keeps an online blog to update her plans, goals and fundraising efforts at http://studyinginjapan2013.blogspot.com/.
“The tuition alone is $12,500, not including expenses such as luggage and uniforms. I've raised a good proportion of the amount so far, thanks to my parents' idea of having a raffle and selling items donated by friends and family members,” she said.
“I also received generous donations from Pratt Industries, Gurley Leep Car Dealership and Wendy's Restaurant. So far, I've earned $6,500.”
“I'm very nervous about being so far away from home for such an extended period of time, but I’m also very excited to just be in Japan and to be around the culture and language,” she said.
To nominate someone for this feature, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.