Maria Madera was standing in the hallway waiting for her class to start when she noticed a sign that would bring her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The sign was for the Danzer Foundation Scholarship that offers one RACC business student to spend a semester studying abroad at Reutlingen University in Germany.
"The deadline to apply was the next day so I had to rush around and get all of my paperwork in order," Maria said. "Maria completed the application in December of 2011 and found out a few months later that she was chosen and would spend the Fall 2012 semester abroad. She received some great advice ahead of time from two former RACC students who had also participated in the program.
"Mary Lou Kline, coordinator of the scholarship program, arranged two meetings with Ryan (Bertoldi) and helped me contact Ramona (Corcino)," said Maria about two of the RACC students who had previously traveled to Germany on this scholarship.
"Ryan talked about the classes and what I should expect, while Ramona talked more about what it was like to live over there and what the dorms were like," Maria added. While Maria was studying at Reutlingen, she also traveled on pre-arranged trips to cities around the country. Maria said her favorite was Hamburg, which reminded her of New York because of the buildings and big-city feel compared to the rural area where she was studying. "I got to meet a lot of people and learn about Germany history. The way they live, and do business," she said.
Maria traveled with fellow students, including one from neighboring Albright, but many of the students hailed from other countries like Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Spain. She said one of their first German courses bonded them as a group. "When we were learning German, it was an intensive learning course where you had to talk German with each other all day," said Maria, who is originally from the Dominican Republic.
While she was abroad, Maria also got a chance to do some brief personal traveling. She was reunited with her cousin and uncle – now living in Germany – that she had not seen since she was 12. There were also trips to Switzerland and Austria to visit friends. "Ever since I was little I always wanted to go to Europe to travel," she said.
Maria earned a degree in Business Administration in May and is working toward her bachelor's degree at Alvernia University.
"I started at RACC in 2008, but then took time off when I had my son," she said. "I was working at a daycare while I wasn't in school, but I always wanted to have my degree. Having my son makes me want to be stronger and better able to provide for him."