A whole new world: My AFS-sponsored summer in Paraguay
By Aria Rens
Every year one Marshfield High School student is awarded a generous scholarship enabling him or her to study abroad through the American Field Service (AFS) program. After applying and receiving the scholarship, I decided to spend the summer in Paraguay to better my Spanish speaking skills and immerse myself in a foreign culture.
I chose to go to Paraguay for many reasons. First of all, it allowed me to stay with a host family where I developed relationships with people actually living in that country. It also offered language classes on the weekdays and was in a country that often falls under the radar despite having a lot to offer. One of the most common questions that I got from Paraguayans themselves was, “Why would you ever choose to come here?”
Despite the country’s lack of recognition, there is no other place, organization, family, or experience I would have chosen. Along with daily Spanish lessons, my host mother gave me the opportunity to go to school every afternoon with my host sister. There I was able to meet even more Paraguayans my age and experienced life as a part of the community.
By going to school and simply stepping out of my comfort zone, I had experiences I otherwise would have been incapable of imagining. Some of the most intriguing people I met were my family’s “employees” or maids. Talking to them taught me to not only value what I have, but I also learned to never make assumptions based upon someone’s social status. In fact, one of the maids had much more education than my host mother but lacked family connections.
Thinking now of Paraguay and the love I developed for my family (of eight), friends from both the program and local school, and the country’s culture, I am endlessly grateful for having been provided this opportunity.