Andrea, the first PSE student from Paraguay to participate on the PSE Trimester Program, came from Asuncion to attend high school in Petaluma, CA as a sophomore.
“I chose the shorter program to avoid missing too much school in Paraguay,” she explains as why she felt the Trimester program as a perfect fit for her.
This was Andrea’s first time in America, and she immediately noticed some standout differences as it related to school in Paraguay versus the U.S.
“In Paraguay, we stay with the same group of classmates in almost all periods of the day, and we don’t share classes with people of other grades. Also, we can’t choose the classes that we take with the exception of choosing a language class (between French or English).”
Andrea enjoyed being placed with an American family and enjoyed the time they spent together. She appreciated, especially, how she was welcomed into their home and integrated into their family life.
Andrea grew very close with her host sister, Sena, during her program.
“They hit it off the moment they met!” Explains Sumaya, Andrea’s host mother. “Sena introduced Andrea to her group of friends, and they all became the best of friends. They drive to school together. They have been prom dress shopping and to sports games together.”
Sumaya describes Andrea as super sweet, outgoing, helpful, and having the most incredible heart.
“Since the day she arrived, we noticed she was soft spoken, but she has become more and more part of our family. Andrea wants to be part of what is happening and is interested in knowing more about culture and experiences. She has been willing to try different foods and meet new people and become part of the family,” she shares.
In fact, Sumaya and her husband are Arab American, 1st generation. “I cook many Middle Eastern dishes, and Andrea was willing to try them. She even helped cook some. She picked up on our Arabic language and embraced every aspect of living here with us!”
Andrea has enjoyed many activities with her host family including bowling, watching the Super Bowl, and taking part in family barbeques.
Sumaya said that Andrea has spent time with many of their extended family members and has gotten to know them in the short time she has been with them.
“We spend family nights together where the extended family comes together for meals and enjoys catching up. She has been able to meet my mom who was able to visit from New York and spend quality time with my little nephew who is two years old. He absolutely adores her!”
Andrea has also embraced opportunities presented to her at school and is on the cheerleading team. One of her favorite memories is cheerleading at a basketball game. “I had so much fun!” she exclaimed.
In a short time, Andrea has felt a tremendous impact by the exchange experience.
“I’ve been able to see how easy it is to connect with people from a different culture. I also am growing personally. Being away from your family and daily environment gives you the opportunity to get to know yourself more,” she shares.
Sumaya says that the hosting experience has been very rewarding.
“It has been so amazing to be part of Andrea’s life and meeting her family. Learning about the Paraguayan culture while exposing her to American culture is so gratifying.”
She continues, “We have had fun dancing together at home – watching Andrea fit in with my family and connect with everyone is so special. She is not afraid to act just as silly as the rest of us!”
Sumaya and her family have hosted many international students, and she provides this advice to other host parents:
“Students want to feel part of the family and want to share. To us, it is important to share and have them be part of everyday life. We ask them questions and explain our culture. Asking them questions about their day and school are important. We also want to try their food and ask them to try ours. We have fun!”
Sumaya wishes that Andrea could stay longer with the family. She closes with the following message:
“Andrea has made a profound impact on our family as we hope we made on her. She is a shining light in this world. She will be greatly missed in our home and in our lives. We plan on staying in touch as much as possible and God willing, we will meet up again. We will definitely keep her and our daughter in close contact and make sure they visit each other – as she has given our daughter a true feel of what having a sister would be like. We are so grateful to Andrea. We wish her success in her future and all the best the world has to offer! We love you, Andrea!”
Written by Flo Webb; edited by Ann Steffen