Student to spend year in Taiwan

    Katherine Lattman has spent the past four years studying Chinese. Soon she'll be immersed in it.

The high schooler is spending her senior year abroad in Taiwan as part of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth program.

The U.S. state department funds the program to provide opportunities for students to spend time overseas to learn lesser-taught languages. Students receive merit-based scholarships to cover most costs of the trip, including meals and lodging with a host family. The program has sent students to Morocco, India, Korea, Russia, Turkey and elsewhere.

Katherine was looking for study-abroad programs for her senior year when she came across the scholarship. She applied with little faith in actually getting a spot. The program is fairly competitive. More than 2,200 students applied for 650 spots this year.

"I basically passed it off," she said. "When I got in, I was amazed."

The 17-year-old daughter of John and Ellen Lattman was born and raised on Hilton Head Island, attending Hilton Head Preparatory School for four years. She's taking her senior year with the South Carolina Virtual Charter School while in Taiwan. By the time she comes back, she'll be a graduate.

She fell in love with the language when she started taking Chinese at Hilton Head Prep. She was part of the first class to which the language was offered.

"I was looking to challenge myself," she said. "It'll be a widely spoken language in the future. I thought I might as well learn it."

She'll live with a host family and take classes at the Wenzao Ursuline College of Language in Taiwan. Her journey won't all be schooling. She'll get a chance to explore the country with trips off the island.

She's spending her summer working to earn a little spending money before leaving Aug. 15. She's hoping the experience will look good on her application to Stanford University, where she's wanted to go since second grade.

"I'll miss graduation and prom and all that, but I'm lucky that I'll get to do this," she said. "It's a lot spending a whole academic year over there. I'm nervous and excited at the same time. But I'll look back and regret not going if I don't."