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NMSU student wins yearlong fellowship to study in Germany

When Creative Media Institute film major Shannon Ellison held a "scholarship party" with a friend to polish her applications skills, she never imagined it would take her overseas. The New Mexico State University student has been awarded the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals work-study fellowship, and will spend a year fully immersed in the German culture.

Shannon Ellison head and upper body shot
New Mexico State University Creative Media Institute student Shannon Ellison will spend a year in Germany after she was awarded the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals work-study fellowship. (Submitted photo)

"My friend wanted to go to China and I want to go to Germany, so I saw this one on the NMSU website. I originally applied for it just as like an exercise, just like practice for myself," Ellison said. "I thought, 'maybe we'll just send this out into the universe,' and it happened. I was completely shocked."

Ellison was one of one of 75 students nationwide to receive a full, one-year scholarship to study abroad in Germany. Funded by the U.S. State Department, the CBYX aims to select students in the business, vocational, scientific, engineering, technical and agricultural fields.

"We were told that the committee did not take many students in the arts," said Mark Medoff, a Tony award-winning playwright and senior fellow at NMSU's CMI in the College of Arts and Sciences. "I think Shannon impressed the committee with the wide range of her interests and her exuberance for the learning experience."

Ellison, originally from Las Cruces, will depart for Germany July 29, and spend her first two months abroad in language training. The next four months will be spent at a German university or a university of applied sciences. She will complete the fellowship with a five-month paid internship working in her field of study.

"My dream internship would be to work on set in a production company, even if I'm a just a production assistant," Ellison said. "So if I'm just getting coffee for people, at least I will be on set, and that's the kind of experience that is really difficult to get as a student."

Ellison began the application process with an essay. From those essays, 150 applicants were chosen to participate in live interviews in Los Angeles before the 75 winners were selected.

Medoff, his wife Stephanie, and two of Ellison's former teachers from Alma d'Arte High School, conducted a mock interview with her before she left for California.

"It was clear from my first meeting with her that she was a unique young woman -- committed to excellence and a wide range of creative activities, at all of which she had enormous potential," Medoff said.

Although majoring in film, Ellison has minors in German and dance. She said she has always been fascinated by Germany's political history. At 15, she watched "The Lives of Others," a German film about East Berlin under Soviet rule.

Ellison hopes this scholarship will make her more competitive for graduate school. She plans to seek a master of fine arts degree in film with a focus on directing at Harvard University or Columbia University.

"Also, just being able to speak another language, that just seems like it could be so useful," Ellison said. "I can live somewhere else, I'll have a completely different perspective. It'll help me grow as a person, just living by myself for a year in a new scary country, and overcoming that."