My name is Jaimie Berberich, and I am currently a nursing major and a freshman at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. When I pictured what my college experience would be like, I thought of cheering at football games, eating interesting dorm food, and taking challenging classes. I never imagined that I would get the incredible opportunity to live and study in another country through PSU's study abroad program.
Last January, my older sister Jessica (currently a sophomore at Pittsburg State) began talking about studying abroad in Asuncion, the capital city of Paraguay, a small country located between Brazil and Argentina. I was also eventually persuaded to join my sister in her adventure. What I originally thought would be a waste of a summer turned out to be one of the best experiences I will have in my college career and likely my life. Through studying abroad, I was able to make lasting memories, gain cultural experience, and develop amazing relationships.
To put it simply, studying abroad in Paraguay was a blast and gave my sister and me lasting memories. Jessica and I were very nervous before we left for our trip: knowing that Paraguay is a developing country where poverty is a serious issue, we prepared ourselves for living conditions that would likely be different than what we were used to at home. So, when we pulled into the marble driveway of our host family's home (complete with their seven expensive foreign cars, a private jet, and numerous maids), we were shocked! We lived in luxury the entire time we were in Paraguay, prompting our mother to remind us that she would not be picking up after us once we returned to Kansas. We were also able to do several sightseeing trips while in South America: first was a city tour of Asuncion, which gave us much insight into the history and culture of Paraguay. Our big "excursion" was a weekend trip to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay to see Paraguay and Brazil's Itaipu Dam (the largest hydroelectric dam in the world) and Foz do Iguacu, Brazil to see Iguazu Falls (the second-largest waterfalls in the world). These were incredible landmarks that will remain unmatched in our lifetimes.
Most importantly, living in Paraguay allowed my sister and me to develop amazing relationships with people living 5000 miles away from our home. We grew close to several of our host family's friends and our classmates who were also in their late teens; despite growing up in vastly different countries, these Paraguayan friends like the same music and television shows that we do, and they were always willing to take a trip to the local shopping mall with us! Next was our host family, the Ortellados, who we were incredibly fortunate to be placed with. The entire time we were there, they treated us just like we were their own family-our host father Tony even referred to us as "my girls." They truly are some of the most caring and genuine people we know, and we are lucky to have the technology nowadays to be able to keep in touch with them. We are also very excited to be able to regularly see our host family again since our host brother Fabrizio has decided to attend the University of Kansas this January. Nearly every other study abroad student that I have spoken to has had the same positive comments about his or her host family-Pittsburg State does a great job of matching students with kind and helpful people.
Though studying abroad certainly does come with concerns-whether they are time, money, or safety-Pittsburg State does an amazing job of working with students from beginning to end to help them complete the process. My sister and I have truly had a once-in-a-lifetime experience because of our choice to study abroad. If I can give you one piece of advice in college, it would be to look into this opportunity.