How do you properly thank someone who gave you not only $15,800, but the best opportunity and year of your life? What can you say that would encompass your gratitude? Those were the questions I asked myself, my family, and my friends before I went to the 2018 Speedwell Scholar picnic, hosted by Mike and Jenny Messner for all of their scholarship reciepients and their families. Each family was told to bring a dish to share, so my mom made a tandy cake and we drove an hour to the picnic location.
At the picnic, each student sat at a table with their host country’s flag, and returnees sat with them to give them advice and answer questions. I sat next to a girl who had studied in Germany almost ten years ago, and although some of her information was not up to date, her advice was invaluble. I also got to talk to others going to Germany about their preparation, which was comforting. I would be willing to bet that almost every new AFSer, if not all of them, left with a sense of comfort and excitment about their prospective year.
Each person had their name announced and was introduced to, and took a picture with, the Messners, followed by a large group photo. I tried to thank the Messners as best as I could. I will forever be grateful.
The picnic was a great way to engage returnees and new AFSers while allowing students to personally thank the Messners (which was preceded by a mandatory thank you letter). I hope to return next year and offer my advice to the new class of Speedwell Scholars.