Brookland-Cayce student packs her bags for year-long exchange program

Miriam Stutler’s classmates will be watching the Bearcats under the Friday night lights, planning promposals and looking ahead to college next year while the rising junior immerses herself in a brand-new culture and language thousands of miles away.

Miriam has studied French but will be taking on German, too. (Photo by Rachel Ham)

Miriam has studied French but will be taking on German, too. (Photo by Rachel Ham)

The Brookland-Cayce High School student was awarded a Rotary Youth Exchange Scholarship from the South Carolina’s Eastern District 7770 and soon will be packing her bags for Switzerland.

“I’ve always loved the idea of travel,” Stutler said. “I want to see new cultures first-hand.”

Stutler is sponsored locally by the Lexington Rotary Club and will receive a $24,000 scholarship to cover room, board, tuition and a monthly stipend.

Stutler was scheduled to travel to France just for the summer but a family friend told her about a year-long opportunity available through Rotary a few days before the application deadline. Rushing to get things ready, the 16-year-old submitted her information in time and eagerly awaited the news.

After interviewing with local and district Rotary leaders, Stutler received a confirmation email in February but had to wait until March to find out where she was going.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the student to grow, learn, and gain invaluable leadership skills,” said Vicki Tatum, the Charleston-based co-chair of Rotary’s District 7770.

Stutler will attend a local high school while living with three host families in the small village of Zug outside of Zurich from August to next July. She’s been in contact with the first family and found out they currently are hosting a student from Chile and that she’ll have a host brother.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how they live and getting to know the town,” she said.

Stutler said family members keep asking if they can trade places with her.

“I’m excited for Miriam, for all that she’ll learn about other cultures and about herself. And I’m grateful for the dedicated folks in Rotary who are giving her this life-enriching opportunity,” said her mother, Lynda Shafer.

Stutler will miss her junior year at BCHS but said she thinks the opportunity is worth it.

“I’m completely thrilled,” she said.

A year abroad also could give her an edge later on in her career. Stutler already has studied French and said she will be picking up German from her host family in Switzerland as the family’s previous exchange students did.

Stutler plans to study chemical engineering and international business in at the University of South Carolina and said the experience of adapting to a new environment will be beneficial.

“It will provide me with a global perspective,” she said.

Before she goes, Stutler will attend weekend retreats to meet other exchange students. The year after she gets back from Switzerland, she will share her experiences to help other students prepare for their trips.

Have a comment about this story or an idea for a story you’d like to see? E-mail Rachel Ham at