THE sacrifices he made while his friends were enjoying their teenage years finally paid off for Wagga student Harry Holbrook, when he made his first overseas trip to Germany.
The Mater Dei Catholic College student last week returned from a once-in-lifetime, two month exchange trip to the south-western German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, where he boarded with a host family.
The trip was a dream come true for the exceptionally bright and driven 16-year-old, who took his first job at McDonalds at just 14 so he could begin saving for the unforgettable adventure.
“I have always wanted to do something different, and while I was exploring my options I decided an exchange trip would be very special,” he said.
Harry’s mother Susanne admitted while she was surprised when her son shared his desire to participate in the AFS Intercultural Program, she firmly believed he would achieve his goal.
“We have six children and I knew it would be difficult to find the money for Harry to do this, but he said to me ‘Mum I am willing to pay’,” she said.
“Harry worked at McDonalds, than the Muffin Break and finally at the Blessed Bean to save the money he needed to go on the trip.
“He has worked very hard.”
Despite still suffering the lingering affects of jet-lag, there was no wiping the smile off the intrepid traveller’s face last week as he shared some of his favourite memories from the European journey.
“I was quite surprised at just how fun it was to go to school over there because I wasn’t sure what it would be like,” he said.
“All of the students were so willing to help me settle in and to make me feel really welcome.
“There were a few differences that I noticed between school here in Australia and the school in Germany though.
“I think the teachers were definitely less friendly and a lot stricter, and they really only saw their role as a teacher – never as a friend of mentor.
“School also started at 7.40am in the morning and could finish at 1pm or 4pm.”
As-well-as experiencing the life of a German student, Harry also relished the opportunity to explore his host family’s home town.
“This is where the first car was invented so there are Porsche and Mercedes Benz museums which were really good,” he said.
“It was also just nice to see their culture.”
Making things easier for Harry, his host family spoke “perfect” English.
“I found out from a very young age, even kindergarten, children have to learn English,” he said.
“They are told it is the world language.”
While Harry enjoyed spending Christmas with his host family, despite missing out on a white Christmas, Susanne said she found it hard to enjoy the day with her son so far away.
“Christmas was really difficult; I was so upset when he rang,” she said.
“I am so happy he is home safe.”
There has been no rest period for Harry upon his arrival back in Australia, with the inspiring teenager turning his attention straight back to his studies.
Harry will not only complete his year 11 studies this year, but undertake three accelerated Higher School Certificate course while juggling his commitments to a number of community groups and committees.
Long considering a career in law or accounting, Harry’s experiences overseas have given him plenty more to consider in his final two years of school.
“Now I might look at options which would allow me to work in another country or with other countries and cultures,” he said.
TRIP OF A LIFETIME: Harry Holbrook, 16, returned from a student exchange trip to Germany last week. The two month journey was just reward for the hard work the Mater Dei Catholic College student put in to save the money needed to participate in the program. Picture: Addison Hamilton
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