Menlo-Atherton High School student Oscar Volpe’s summer turned into winter. That’s because he spent seven weeks in Paraguay as an American Field Service (AFS) exchange student, living with a host family in Lambaré, which is on the outskirts of the capital city of Asunción.
“Being there was so different from being here and not just because it was winter,” said Oscar. “Most of the roads in Lambaré are dirt. And while there are lots of empanada shops, most stores feature American brands. My host sister was a 12-year-old, and she said anything about the States is popular in Paraguay.”
During the week, a lot of Oscar’s interactions were with other AFS students, who were taking Spanish immersion classes, like him. After class, they’d explore Asunción.
“While I was there, I tried to speak Spanish as much as possible,” he said. “Last year, I was in Spanish 1 and now I’m in Spanish 4. I have no hesitation speaking Spanish. I don’t think I’m fluent, but my friends do. It’s made me think I’d like to learn other languages.”
On weekends in Paraguay, Oscar participated in activities with his host family. “We went to performances at the local school and also to the beach. And, I spent time playing games with my host brother, who was nine years old.”
Now in his sophomore year at M-A, Oscar is continuing to pursue his other interests. He plays trumpet in the jazz band and is a member of the tennis team. He also keeps in touch with his South American family.
“Going to Paraguay as an AFS student was the most fun I’ve had in my life,” he said. “I feel like I have a whole other family now, and when I came back to Menlo Park, I was actually home sick. The experience was just great.”
If you’re interested in finding out more information about AFS programs, there’s information specific to the San Francisco Bay Area available online.
Photo by Irene Searles