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Student wins scholarship, prepares for trip to Japan


Other than jaunts to Puerto Rico and Canada, Daniel Metz hasn't had the money to satisfy his globe-trotting ambitions -- until now.

This summer, the 17-year-old Mount Hebron junior is bound for Japan, thanks to a $2,560 scholarship he won from a Washington-based student-exchange program.

"I've always wanted to go out really traveling, but the bucks were the problem," said Daniel, the only scholarship recipient from Maryland and one of 50 nationwide.

The scholarships were awarded by Youth For Understanding International Exchange, a 44-year-old, private, nonprofit educational institution that organizes student exchange trips around the world.

Under the program, Daniel will spend six weeks in Japan, where he will meet members of the Diet, Japan's parliament, and stay with a host family. The trip costs $3,160; Daniel must pay the remaining $600 the scholarship doesn't cover.

Program organizers said Daniel's open-minded attitude and communication abilities earned him the scholarship.

"He was just well-rounded," said Susan McPeek, program coordinator for government scholarship programs at Youth For Understanding. "He had a good idea of what this would be about."

To receive the award, Daniel had to earn a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 and write several essays about his family and extracurricular activities. He said it was those late-night efforts that put him ahead of 500 scholarship applicants nationwide.

"I hope my essays had something to do with it," he said, recalling one particular assignment that took the form of a personal letter to a hypothetical Japanese host family. "I was up until midnight a couple of nights printing" the essays.

Daniel leaves this month, but he's been preparing for the trip for weeks. In May, he attended an orientation session in Washington, D.C., that stressed traveling in foreign countries. He also traveled to San Francisco to attend an intensive three-day seminar on Japanese language and culture.

Now he's off to Tokyo.

"I'm nervous about language barriers," said Daniel, who speaks Spanish but is looking forward to learning Japanese with his host family. "I'm going to feel kind of bad" not being able to speak Japanese.

Besides Spanish, he's studied pre-calculus, biology, English, U.S. history, computers and physics.

"He's an excellent student," said social studies teacher Angela Sugg, who's known Daniel for two years. "He's really bright. He never turns in an assignment that's not to the best of his ability."

Outside class, he wrestles on the school team; participates in Junior Statesmen of America, a national debating group; and practices karate.

It was his interest in karate that led to thoughts about Japan. "Over the years I've picked up a few things," he said. "It seems like an interesting country."

But ask him what he wants to see in Japan and he doesn't have any specific destinations in mind. Tokyo, definitely. Maybe Mount Fuji, Japan's 12,388-foot dormant volcano.

"Just being over there is enough," he said. "I don't know. I'll just see what comes up."

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