Vail Daily column: Teen benefits from international experience | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Teen benefits from international experience

Battle Mountain High School Senior Andrea Arroyo and Eagle River Youth Coalition October Youth of the Month immersed herself in the Austrian culture during her Rotary International year abroad.

Images of an American teenager traveling Europe on someone else's dime for nine months might not match that of local Battle Mountain High School senior Andrea Arroyo. Arroyo was the fortunate recipient of a 2014 Rotary scholarship to spend her junior year on an acclaimed exchange program. Based out of Vienna, Arroyo had the opportunity to venture beyond Austria to Germany, Hungary, Belgium, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Monaco, Andorra and Italy, enabling her to experience a variety of cultures, expand her linguistics and sample delectable treats.

'SERVICE ABOVE SELF'

Rotary International's tagline of "Service Above Self" rings true through their exchange program. Rotary International commits to an exchange philosophy of service to others by broadening perspectives and increasing understanding. Beyond somewhat selfish pursuits many American teens might have of "finding themselves" and "developing their path" through international travel, Arroyo had the unique opportunity to "live like they do, seeing perspectives and shifting my thinking," as she describes.

The rigorous year-long application and interview process culminated in a joyful celebration for Arroyo, and she felt privileged to have been assigned to her top choice of location.

"As a fan of classical music and the German language, Vienna was an obvious choice," she said.

Andrea Arroyo experienced living with three different host families across her term.

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When comparing cultures, "Europeans don't seem as friendly and are way more laid back than Americans, and their respect for teachers seems more like a university environment," Arroyo said. "I'd walk into a class room and my classmates address their teachers as 'Mr. Professor,' and the teachers seemed to have that mutual respect for students, almost seeing them as the same level."

SOAKING UP THE CULTURE

Exposure to robust classical music, discovery of new culinary tastes and immersion in a number of new languages offered Arroyo a well-rounded journey. A flautist and pianist, Arroyo played with the 15th District Band — Rudolfsheim Fünfhaus Wind Ensemble while in Vienna. She beams when reflecting on being the youngest member of the band, playing next to a 60-year-old.

While her daily cuisine back in the states may not include European treats of wiener schnitzel, knoedel and kaiserschmarrn, a newfound love for delicious cuisine has led Arroyo to enroll in Battle Mountain's foods class. Arroyo lights up when she describes these traditional German, Slovak and Hungarian dishes, and explains, "I can't wait to start by learning how to make spinach quiche and red velvet cake — the European way."

Arroyo has a self-proclaimed love of language. Having grown up in a bilingual Spanish-English household, Arroyo's quiver has expanded to include German, Russian, French and Italian. One might assume Arroyo is pursuing an English-Spanish combination through the Eagle County Schools innovative Seal of Biliteracy program for local high school graduates. She plans to opt for a German and English combination instead.

LOCAL VOLUNTEERING

Service at a local level is a critical component of Arroyo's life as well, as she commits to helping to bring together the community and serve neighbors in need through various activities. She can be seen face painting at the annual Eagle River Youth Coalition's Village Market Pumpkinfest, ringing bells for the Salvation Army, doling out raffle prizes during Avon Police Department's National Night Out and helping families in need with a nutritious meal at Thanksgiving.

What lessons has Andrea Arroyo taken away from her recent experiences?

"If you have a chance to travel, dump your plans for the spa or beach and go where people live to learn from them," she said.

She is a fan of the adage that travel is the only thing that you can buy in the world that makes you richer.

Arroyo also said, "Whatever you do, be proud."

A surprise, coming from a soft-spoken and thoughtful teen.

"If I'm going to be Austrian, I'm going to be a proud Austrian," she said.

Michelle Stecher is the executive director at the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit that offers and supports collaborative prevention programs and services. The Youth Leaders Council is a program of the Eagle River Youth Coalition. In addition to Youth Leaders Council, Eagle River Youth Coalition offers parenting education and trainings for community members. For more information, call 970-949-9250 or visit http://www.eagleyouth.org.

Pumpkinfest

Look for Andrea at this year’s Village Market Pumpkinfest!

When: Oct. 24, Noon-4 p.m.

Where: Riverwalk Backyard.

What: Family-friendly event for kids and their parents. Free horseback rides from Bear Cat Stables, Riverwalk’s Trick or Treat Street, $5 pumpkins. Wear your costumes! Benefiting Eagle River Youth Coalition.

Contact: Carol Johnson, cjohnson@eagleyouth.org