Waikato Diocesan student Danielle Herrmann will be carrying the weight of history with her when she lives for eight weeks with a French family later this year.
Danielle won one of only two of the hotly-contested World War I commemorative scholarships offered by the American Field Scholarships (AFS) Educational Trust, with the other going to a Christchurch student.
Now 17, Danielle was born in Zimbabwe and arrived in New Zealand, by way of Britain and Singapore, aged 3.
She was amazed to discover recently that she not only had four family members who were part of World War I, but that they also fought on both sides.
This research into her family's involvement in the war has won the year-12 student a scholarship awarded by AFS France to commemorate 100 years of AFS.
The scholarship was awarded on the basis of the students' connection to the war, as AFS (American Field Service) was founded by the volunteer ambulance service that worked during both world wars.
Danielle submitted a scholarship-worthy PowerPoint presentation, and has completed two or more years of French language studies.
Danielle said that not only had her research enriched her knowledge of World War I and the great sacrifice the people who fought in it had made, it has also created opportunities to get to know branches of her family overseas with whom she had previously had little contact.
"I was surprised to learn that I had four relatives with World War I connections who were from three different countries. I had one great-grandfather from Germany, one from Britain and two relatives from South Africa."
Her paternal great-grandfather, Albert Herrmann, fought for Germany, although little is known of his war experience. Albert Edward Warwick, Danielle's other great-grandfather from her father's side, was also involved in the Great War.
"Albert Warwick joined the Royal Army Service Corps as a driver and mechanic with the rank of private.
"His job was to ensure the vehicles were in good working order, and to transport personnel, equipment, arms and food to the front line."
Lachlan Moore McBean, Danielle's great-grandfather on her mother's side, was a captain in the Machine Gun Corps and was decorated with three medals for his efforts during World War 1 - the 1914-18 Star, the 1914-18 British War medal and the 1918 Victory medal.
"My great-great-great-uncle from my mother's side of the family, Wilfred Hopley Flemmer, was a second lieutenant in C Company of the Second South African Infantry Battalion, and was killed at the battle of Delville Wood at the age of 24.
"When I travel to France, I hope to visit the Somme, particularly the cemetery at Delville Wood.
"The whole process has been pretty emotional, but has also given me an even stronger family identity," she said.
AFS Waikato Chapter president Les Wills said AFS was very popular in France, and the aim was to find Danielle a suitable family to stay with for the two-month scholarship.
AFS exchanges provided a great opportunity for young New Zealanders to live as locals in another country, attend school, learn the language, gain cultural knowledge and by doing so, learn more about themselves, and mature and develop a greater global understanding.
A further Diocesan student, Ruth Thorburn, a year-11 student, heads to the United States for a year this month.
AFS exchange students from France, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Brazil and Uruguay arrived in Hamilton in July, and will be spread through Hamilton and Cambridge schools.
"We are always looking for students who want to travel on AFS scholarships and we are keen to hear from families in Waikato willing to host foreign students," Wills said.
AFS Waikato is keen to recruit students for the 2015 year, to take part in exchanges from two, five or 10 months long.
Any student who will be between 15 and 18 years 6 months at the start of next year is eligible to apply.
For more details call Les Wills on 07 846 3422 or 027 344 9880, or visit the AFS New Zealand website at www.afs.org.nz.
- Waikato Times