November 23, 2003
Kate Dearing, <i>Hullabaloo</i> contributing writer
Newcomb College senior Paula Eichenbrenner received the Council for International Education Exchange Student of the Year award last week at the CIEE annual conference in Budapest, Hungary. A double major in Russian and Spanish, Eichenbrenner spent the fall semester of 2002 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
"I studied at St. Petersburg State University where I was enrolled in six classes that were all taught in Russian. I also taught a conversational English class, and I developed two different community service initiatives at a local orphanage," Eichenbrenner said.
She studied at the University's Center for Russian Language and Culture with 16 other American students from around the nation. Eichenbrenner spent many hours volunteering at the Mercy House children's home where she and a group of volunteers raised over $450 and 130 toys to benefit Mercy House's orphans in a holiday giving program called "Hope for the Holidays."
"I have always volunteered and so I naturally turned to service in order to tie myself to my new home. When I couldn't locate any appropriate volunteer opportunities, I created my own," Eichenbrenner said. At the end of her semester in Russia, Eichenbrenner was nominated for the CIEE Student Recognition award by her Resident Directors Nathan Longan and Mila Vergunova, in recognition of the initiative she took in creating community service opportunities, and in involving others in that service.
"Each of the CIEE Study Centers is able to nominate one person a year for this award. I was honored to be chosen as the recipient," Eichenbrenner said. As part of the award, the CIEE paid for all costs for Eichenbrenner to fly and stay in Budapest for the weeklong conference. She also received a certificate for her achievements and gave an acceptance speech at the conference.
"It is a tremendous honor to receive this award, although I do feel a little strange being recognized for service that I completed without any expectation of a reward," Eichenbrenner said. "I also feel that those really worthy of being commended are the exceptional staff and children of the Mercy House orphanage, who are struggling against such tremendous odds."
Eichenbrenner wants her receipt of this award to encourage more students to do more volunteer work while abroad. "I hope that my receiving this award highlights the importance of service in education, even for study abroad students who may only be a part of their universities or communities for a short period of time," she said.
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