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The world at her fingertips

April E. ClarkGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. When Rachel Mueller traveled to Germany two years ago for World Youth Day, she caught the travel bug. “I met so many people from around the world. I loved it so much – I just got really inspired by it,” said Mueller, a senior at Glenwood Springs High School. “I’ve discovered a passion for different cultures and different languages.”Last year, Mueller visited France with her GSHS French class. She has studied the French language for 312 years.”That was awesome – I love France,” she said. “I hope to go back again someday.”

For now, France will have to wait.Next on Mueller’s travel itinerary is Swaziland, departing today. She’ll complete her high school studies at the Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa in two years, before starting college.”I find it comforting that there will be so many people from around the world who will also be living away from home,” Mueller said of the 100 international students in her class. “I’m just happy there’s such a rigorous academic program. I can relate to people on an academic level. I’m just going into it with an open mind.”Mueller underwent a lengthy application process that included an on-site interview at the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West in Las Vegas, N.M.”There were kids from Finland, Mexico, Australia, England with all these different accents,” she said. “At that point, I completely fell in love with the school.” A straight-A student, Mueller qualified for the Davis United World College Scholars Program, which covers the $70,000 education tab.”This is a full-ride scholarship,” said Lori Mueller, Rachel’s mom. “And there are 60 colleges in the United States that will continue to pay for college after the two years (at Waterford Kamhlaba). We feel pretty blessed.” Lori, a program director at YouthZone, is accompanying Rachel on her trans-continental journey to Africa.”I’ll drop her off and then I get to go on safari … I couldn’t ask for a more exciting place for her,” Lori said. “But she’s always been like this. Just always thinking out of the box. People aren’t that surprised when they hear she’s leaving for Africa. I think God’s been preparing her for this for a long time.”

Rachel’s family – Lori; dad Joe; 15-year-old brother Keith; and 10-year-old sister Kimberly – are relying on their strong faith to guide Rachel on her journey to Africa. Lori said the family prayed about the decision and all doors have seemed to open for Rachel since then.But as happy as the family is for Rachel, a pros and cons list taped up in the kitchen shows how much they’ll miss her.On the pros side of the sheet of paper, the Muellers have written such optimistic messages as “Open doors,” “Learn about new cultures,” and “Excellent education.”And the cons?”No air condition, no heat,” “I will miss everyone so much,” and “No one to laugh and cry with about girlfriend soap operas.”After a going-away party in her honor, she’s off to another continent for the education of a lifetime. She’s taking two bags of luggage, her laptop, and the sheepskin she’s had since she was a baby.”It will be good for me to live more minimalistically,” she said.

Spoken like a true jet-setter.Contact April Clark: 945-8515, ext. 16601aclark@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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