We are delighted to share that our alumna Bella Chisholm (NZ to Germany, 2011) has won a scholarship to participate in the Global Educators Academy Programme at the 2024 AFS Youth Assembly in NYC.

Read Bella’s reflections below, then apply to join her and the other NZ delegates at the Youth Assembly!


I think the last time I wrote for the AFS Newsletter I was an intern at the New Zealand Embassy in Berlin which would have been 2016, or when I was an exchange student to Germany in 2011. Which certainly makes me feel old, but that’s not why I’m writing today. 

At  the end of last month, I found out I won an AFS Youth Assembly Global Educators scholarship. This means that I get to spend a week in New York this August, and do a week-long course at the State University New York (SUNY). 

The course is an educators workshop on global citizenship education and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, then after that I get to  participate at the AFS Youth Assembly, which is a two day conference at the U.N that brings together some of the foremost young leaders and social entrepreneurs from over 100 countries to learn, engage and take action to solve global challenges (I definitely did just lift that sentence off the website, because who can explain it better than the organisation themselves). There are people from all over the world coming to this, and this is what I am most excited about, meeting interesting and intelligent people and learning from them. There is nothing I enjoy more than engaging in brilliant conversations with people who have had incredible world experience. And, of course it’s hard not to be excited about going to New York – the greatest city in the world. 

I often say to my mum, “I don’t like to make life easy for myself”, in a way that I take the path less travelled and very rarely say no to things (My plate is constantly filled right up to the brim) because there is so much of life that I want to do. I think this comes back to doing AFS as a freshly turned 16 year old. Nothing will ever be as scary as stepping off that train to my small German village to meet my host parents for the first time, or my first day of German school when I didn’t understand a word. This taught me I can truly do anything. That year was the toughest year of my life so far, but I got more out of it than I can explain. I grew up, I learnt a new language and I found self confidence I didn’t know I had. 

It has been 13 years this month since I stepped off the train in Trokenborn, and since then I have spent another 5 years back in Berlin, doing my Masters in Anglophone Modernities in Literature and Culture, working and volunteering at a Refugee Camp, perfecting my German and having as much fun as possible in Berlin, and if you know anything about Berlin you will know there is a lot of fun to had there.

The last two years I have been living in Melbourne, working full time and doing my Primary School teaching Masters on the side. I am not sure if I will end up in the classroom, what I really want to do is work for an organisation that helps make education more accessible. Another thing I picked up during my AFS exchange was the  importance of education. I went into the year below what I was in Auckland, and these kids were doing things we wouldn’t do for another two years, despite this it was more accessible. Still to this day, I know all the parts of the skeleton in German but I’m not confident I know it in English.

During my Masters in Berlin and my time at the refugee camp, I also saw how education can change lives, it brought hope to the kids in the refugee camp and gave them opportunities they didn’t know they had. This is also why I am so excited about going to the Youth Assembly and the week course at SUNY, to continue to develop and explore what I am really passionate about, education and how we as a society can continue to change people’s lives through it. 

I will make sure to update you all after I am them, and hopefully have some inspiring and exciting stories to tell.  

Find out more about the Youth Assembly and how you can be part of the action!