A Year in 'Das Land der Dichter und Denker'
USC College senior Helen Moser snags competitive Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) scholarship and heads to Germany.By Pamela J. Johnson
April 20, 2010
As an intern with the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Helen Moser researched pros and cons for a proposed law that would ban tobacco displays in stores.
Working for member Mary Scanlon, whose party opposed the bill, Moser analyzed and compiled the results of surveys to business owners. Her study-abroad experience as an MSP aide while legislation was being debated on the floor (the bill eventually passed) prepared her for the grueling, four-hour interviews and tests that would help determine whether Moser would receive a highly competitive Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) scholarship.
She got it. Of more than 630 applicants nationwide, the USC College senior was among 75 chosen. The yearlong, work-study scholarship that begins in July provides education and professional training in Germany. It includes two months of intensive German language training, four months of classroom instruction at a German university and a five-month internship in a student’s field of study.
Moser has a double major in political science in the College and print journalism in USC Annenberg School for Communication. After her scholarship in Germany, she plans to pursue her master’s degree, work in a service program such as AmeriCorps and eventually have a career in public policy.
She already speaks some German; she’s taken three semesters of German at USC. Also, her grandfather is Swiss and she grew up listening to Swiss German. Last spring, she vacationed in Germany and loved it.
“When I left, I knew I really wanted to go back and spend more time there,” Moser said. “Then this program came along and I’m really excited about it.”
Moser’s other pursuits and honors set the stage for the yearlong program and wowed the scholarship judges. She’s in the Thematic Option honors program headquartered in USC College, a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and a USC Presidential Scholar. She’s also the USC Undergraduate Student Government’s director of campus affairs and volunteers for USC Helenes, a female service organization on campus established in 1921. After her sophomore year, she completed a USC Global Fellows Internship Program in Taiwan, where she worked in the Washington State Office of Trade and Investment’s Taipei office.
A year earlier, in the summer of 2007, she interned for Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). While in Louisiana, she got an unexpected look at the dark side of politics. She happened to be working at the senator’s office when the scandal broke that Vitter’s phone number had been included in a published list of records of a prostitution service.
“While it was discouraging, it certainly taught me about how real politics works,” Moser said. “You want to think the person you’re working for has values. You want to see them as good people who are making good decisions.”
Rather than work for an elected official, Moser wants to work behind the scenes in implementing public policy. After several service trips to various locations of the Navajo Nation Reservation — including two USC alternative spring breaks to the site in Utah — Moser is considering reservation public policy work.
“I’ve witnessed many of the problems present on the reservation,” Moser said, adding that she may pursue her master’s in Native American studies and public policy.
For now, the 21-year-old Baton Rouge native is trying to finish up her studies and graduate while looking for possible places to intern in Berlin through the CBYX scholarship.
“I wanted to get out of the south and see new things,” she said. “It’s been a completely different experience than I had growing up.”
The CBYX scholarship is offered through CDS International, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in New York providing exchange programs, professional work internships, study tours, and language and cultural training programs designed to prepare individuals and corporations for a globally connected society.