Photo by Jolene Guzman
Rilley Syphers, middle, sings with fellow members of the choir at Perrydale High School. Syphers will head to Norway in July to participate in a musical and cultural exchange program through Brunstad Christian Church’s Youth Exchange Program.
As of Wednesday, April 15, 2015
PERRYDALE — Rilley Syphers will have to get used to snow, cold weather, and … more rain.
Syphers, a senior at Perrydale High School, will be leaving the mild climate of Oregon in July to spend a year in Norway as part of a musical and cultural exchange through Brunstad Christian Church’s Youth Exchange Program. Based in Norway, the church has branches in 65 countries.
She was selected for the opportunity from a pool of more than 3,000 applicants nationwide. Only about 250 are chosen for the exchange each year.
Syphers said the application process is so competitive that the program encouraged applicants to make a “plan B,” in case they aren’t selected. Syphers’ was to attend classes at Chemeketa Community College.
“But I got in, so I was really excited about that. There are five other kids from the Northwest that got in,” she said. “To be able to do something like this is so insane because I feel like kids and young people my age always talk about traveling and never actually get to do it. I think this is a really cool way to do it because you are learning a good work ethic.”
Giving young adults work experience is one of the objectives of the program. A classically trained singer, Syphers applied to be involved in the exchange musical and performance arts programs. She never considered teaching music as a career, but is open to the challenge as part of her year in Norway.
“If I could teach someone how to use their voice better and help them in that way, I would,” she said. “Every other year, they do a big, huge Christmas program, which is televised throughout Norway. That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to be part of it.”
Misty Matthews, Syphers’ choir teacher throughout high school, said she will be a good fit for the exchange.
“Rilley is an exceptional kid,” Matthews said. “She’s so dedicated.”
When it comes to music, Matthews classifies Syphers as a “natural talent” who understands music without much instruction.
“You love watching her,” Matthews said.
Discovering the program through her church, Syphers said the timing for her acceptance to the program couldn’t be more fitting.
“I wasn’t ready for college. I kind of just wanted to break away from school and, like, be somewhere new and travel,” she said. “I thought this was a good way to do that.”
Syphers said one of the few concerns she has is leaving her family behind for so long, but she is also eager to find her “Norway family.”
Part of doing that will be immersing herself in the culture and learning about the history of Norway. The exchange requires participants to learn some Norwegian before leaving.
“They give you classes that you have to pass before you can go and buy your plane tickets,” she said. “I think it’s cool that they really want you to learn because you can really put yourself into the culture.”
She added that her experience in the country might provide her direction when it comes time to go back to school and choose a career.
“Right now it’s just a blank slate that is going to happen eventually, but I’m just going to let the rest of this happen first,” she said. “I might find what I want to do and what I want to be over there.”
As for the weather, Syphers said she will try to keep an open mind and “learn to like snow.”
“Maybe I will go to Italy in the winter and hang out there,” she said. “Why not, right?”