Sophomore’s studies take her abroad


Maddie Seiler, Reporter

Travel is a unique and exciting adventure for most, but this sophomore plans to take the experience to the next level. Next year, Jade Uilkema, Big Spring’s very first student to study abroad will spend the entirety of her junior year of high school immersed in the culture of India.

Uilkema said she’ll likely leave for India sometime in August, and although she doesn’t yet know the name of the city she’ll be staying, Uilkema said it’s somewhere in the Midwest of India.

Studying abroad is typically more common in college students over high school students, so Uilkema explained her reasoning. She claimed that studying abroad in high school would, “make me more independent. Also, it’s a lot easier to learn the language at this age.”

Uilkema chose India to study abroad because of the unique dress, food, and culture. She said her first choice was Japan; India was a close second. Uilkema explained that where she went depended on the amount of available host families in the country and India had an open slot first.

Uilkema said she will be sent to India by a Rotary Club. “They have a youth exchange program,” Uilkema said. The amount of host families in a country determines how many kids are allowed to study abroad.

The process to qualify for the program is a long one. “You go through a lot of interviews…and they see if you’re a capable candidate. You have to get approval from a teacher,” Uilkema said. “It was a little nerve wracking, but it wasn’t that bad.”

Uilkema is taking several steps to prepare for her extended travels. “I plan to learn as much [Hindi] as I can before I go abroad and be able to know basic conversation skills. Most people in India do speak English, but I really want to learn Hindi and I don’t want to speak English to them. I’m probably going to ask everybody I can ask in Hindi if they can speak Hindi to me, because that’s how you really, truly learn a language.” Uilkema said she would also like to have “a basic understanding of the culture and religion.”

Uilkema said she hopes to gain “maturity, more world knowledge, and independence from her travels. She hopes to see a bigger picture as a whole world rather than just the little area she sees around her.

When asked what aspect of traveling to India she was most excited about, Uilkema only had one word, “Everything!” She went on to explain that she looked forward to becoming familiar with “the culture, the language, the people…the food, the dress, the dances, the festivals…”

Uilkema wanted to offer some advice to anyone who might consider studying abroad at some point in their life. “First of all, you have to have good grades and really up that GPA!” She also stressed the importance of “Be[ing] adventurous!”

While a lot of Uilkema’s travel plans are still up in the air and there are still several details that need to be worked out, Uilkema is getting excited to embark on this new adventure!

Watch for our interview with Jade coming up on the Channel 3 News.