Four years ago, life couldn't have been more different than it is today for Analia Saldivar, Maria Ferreira, and Jasmine Ramirez.
The three friends were living in their hometown of Asuncion, Paraguay, considering their options for college, work, and where they might want to build their careers. And although the United States is an attractive option for any international student - and Kansas for Paraguay students especially, thanks to the development of the 1968 Kansas Paraguay Partnership (KPP) - they were having a hard time deciding which educational path to pursue.
But when they heard about the new "PSU in Paraguay" program that not only brings PSU educators to the country but also allows students from Paraguay to come here for study - their decision was easy.
"There are things you don't truly understand when you're living in the bubble of home," said Ramirez, who along with Saldivar and Ferreira is taking part in the 2009 Spring Commencement activities as the first three graduates of the PSU in Paraguay program. "I think this program is wonderful for the youth of Paraguay. It is successful and is changing futures."
Ramirez, who is currently one of 36 PSU students from Paraguay, has made the most of her time here. She has been involved in multiple campus organizations, and in May won the Undergraduate International Honors Award. This fall, she'll head to Spain to study at the University of Salamanca.
Saldivar and Ferreira, also very involved on campus, are looking for graduate schools as well, likely in the U.S.
"Compared to what we have at home, there are unlimited opportunities here," said Ferreira, who is studying psychology. "For me, the experience has been so great because of the people. I've been impressed with the smart, approachable professors."
Since the program began in 2005, said PSU in Paraguay director Dr. Alice Sagehorn, it has been just as valuable for Americans traveling there. Eighteen professors have taught in Asuncion, with seven more scheduled to teach next year. The experience allows professors to internationalize their curricula and have an international perspective when they return.
"I know the opportunities I have from going to school here are better now," said Saldivar, who is looking toward Washington, D.C., as her next step. "There are challenges to being an international student, but this experience has been very helpful for me."