In August, when most students are preparing for school, one will be preparing for South Korea.
Emily Ciavolino, 16, will be traveling to Seoul for two weeks in early August on a full scholarship that includes a variety of activities, including courses at Yonsei University. But for Emily, the most exciting part is being in a country that relates to her love of tae kwon do.
"Tae kwon do is like really, really important to me," she said, "and I'm excited to learn about the roots and where it came from."
She became involved in tae kwon do in 2006, Emily said, and now works and trains at Jarrettsville Tae Kwon Do with Joe Nawrozki, who wrote the letter of recommendation for her scholarship application. While with that organization, Emily not only teaches fellow students, but also holds a black belt herself, according to Nawrozki.
"There are many gems in and around Harford County and Emily is certainly one of them," he said.
Emily attends Harford Community College for both high school and college credit, having been homeschooled for most of her academic life. She also received a scholarship to HCC for two semesters and plans to major in mass communications.
But her main hobby is tae kwon do, she emphasized.
It started with an online search, when Emily realized she wanted to go abroad during the summer. After searching, she stumbled upon the Council on International Educational Exchange website and found the scholarship program for a trip to South Korea, provided by the Korea Foundation.
"It wasn't just a random country," she said. "I had a connection to it because of tae kwon do."
Part of her scholarship application was to write about how she would "contribute to amiable relations" between the United States and Korea, Emily said, and she is one of 100 students who will be participating in the program.
When she found out two weeks ago, Emily said her mother immediately started checking out the website to make sure everything was official and her dad was excited.
But Emily, on the other hand, was surprised.
"It didn't really feel real," she said. "It's really exciting but I don't really have a full handle on it."
Emily also said she was looking forward to "immersing" herself in the culture saying that she has learned basic information about several different countries but "a lot of times you don't get in depth about one country."
"I'm just excited about learning that much about one country," she said.
Her trainer, Nawrozki, said when she found out last week she called him shouting in happiness and was "terribly excited." He, too, reiterated that her deep interest in that culture was through the sport she had come to love. Nawrozki also said one of his friends, the head of the Korean Vietnam Vets Association, had invited Emily to dinner with his family during the stay, which is a "huge honor."
This is added to an already packed schedule, with the museum visits, courses and a trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone. In the end, Nawrozki said, she will return much more knowledgeable about Korean culture and able to share it with the people around her.