Shope’s Languages Will Take Her Around The World

Maisie Stevens, Staff Writer

When Maren Shope was six years old her family moved to Bayreuth, Germany and she was immediately immersed in the language and culture. There she attended a school and quickly picked up German a lot quicker than the rest of her family. She fell in love with the language and did not want to go back to English. And even though she moved back to the US, her recent accomplishment of winning the World Languages Sterling Scholar Award shows her love for German clear as day.

Bayreuth is a small town, so there were no international schools where Shope could speak English. So, she went to a smaller school which is where she first learned to speak German.

“It [the German school] was definitely different than Highland,” Shope said. “For one, the class sizes were way smaller, and they start to learn English in fourth grade, so that different.”

Her family lived there for three years, and she was the perfect age to pick up a second language. Her parents never really picked it up and her brother was too young. The people there also played big parts in helping her learn the language and acclimatize to the culture. And the longer they stayed there the more she loved it.

“One of the main reasons we moved back to the United States was she just wasn’t really interested in reading in English anymore,” Jeanne Riley, her mom, said. “She was so immersed in German.”

When they moved back to the US, Shope had to catch up in English this time. But she caught up and became bilingual.

Her experience in Germany gave her a look at life not many others have. She can connect with people because she understands what it’s like to be an outsider and not know the language. There’s so much said through knowing a language, especially in any native language among native speakers. And other times the way that people communicate with each other is not always through actual words. It sometimes has to do more with just common experiences, and Shope knows what it’s like to not be a part of something and to be put in a situation where she didn’t really understand. And because she can connect with people on a deeper level, she has become a very inclusive and empathetic person.

“I think she’s very good at reaching out and connecting with people and understanding,” Riley said. “She raises awareness that some other people might not see. She has, like, a heightened sense of when people are feeling left out or not understanding things and she tries to bridge that gap.”

Shope is an IB student and took 3 years of German at Highland, taking the German IB test last year. This year she is on track to graduate with an IB diploma and go on to excel wherever she goes next.

But her busy IB schedule doesn’t faze her. She manages to balance her social life, school, her sports – skiing, swimming, lacrosse and mountain biking – and her numerous volunteer activities, receiving high praise in all.

She is able to use German in many of her volunteer activities including tutoring newly immigrated and refugee kids at Highland though real life. And she has done that for two days a week for the last three years.

She took a trip to Peru last summer. She teaches skiing through the National Ability Center and works at the Salt Lake Bicycle Collective, building bikes for kids. She also participates in a German immersion camp every summer.

“She fits in a lot, yeah,” Riley said. “And I’m just so proud of the way that she manages her talent.”

Shope hopes to become an orthodontist or go into the medical field, and she knows that her experience with other cultures and languages will be beneficial for those career paths.

“I love German because it’s not only an interesting language but also the culture is so unique,” Shope said. “And I’m happy I got to learn it.”