Summer Language Study Program — 2018
Application deadline: February 1, 2018
Spend your summer in Paraguay’s capital city practicing Spanish as it’s spoken by locals. On this 6-week program you’ll get the full immersion experience by taking language lessons and living with a local host family in or near Asunción. Your classes will likely be different from anything you've ever experienced—teachers focus on interactive learning and complement their lessons with cultural exploration. On Saturdays you’ll visit nearby markets that specialize in ethnic handicrafts, giving you the opportunity to put your language skills to the test. This is your chance to accelerate your Spanish while traveling the world and becoming part of an international community.
In Paraguay you might be greeted in Spanish (“¿Cómo está?”) or the local indigenous dialect, Guaraní (“¿Mba'eichapa?”). Paraguayans are generally bilingual—they say that Spanish is the language of the head, while Guaraní is the language of the heart. Hand gestures are a common way to communicate; you can give a “thumbs up” when saying “Al pelo” (which means that everything is good) or “Iporã” (which means that everything is fine). To be respectful, Paraguayans often address adults as Don (for men) and Doña (for women).
Your journey to Paraguay will begin in New York City or Miami, where you’ll meet your fellow AFSers from the US. Together you’ll attend an overnight orientation and get a crash course on Paraguayan language and culture. Then you’ll travel as a group to the city of Asunción where you’ll be met by AFS staff and volunteers.
Soon you’ll be ready to head to your community. Along the way, you’ll likely see parks full of mango trees and buildings painted in pastel colors. You may also catch sight of lively markets packed with Guaraní Indians selling feathered headdresses. And as you get closer to your new home, you’ll probably find people relaxing and drinking yerba (herbal tea) on front-yard patios.
You can expect to be placed with a host family in the Asunción metropolitan area. You’ll find that Paraguayan society centers on the extended family, and children often live with their parents until they marry. That means you could have host siblings of any age, ranging from small children to young adults in their twenties or thirties.
Paraguayans are very social with their neighbors. Friends often drop in for impromptu visits, announcing their presence by clapping their hands at the gate. Invited guests don’t need to be punctual, since it’s common to arrive even hours late at a friend’s or relative’s house.See where past AFSers have lived
Your language learning will begin before you even leave the country; all participants will get the opportunity to better their Spanish skills with a pre-departure online Rosetta Stone course. Your Spanish-speaking ability will be evaluated in order to help determine the best class for your skill level. But don’t worry—beginners are welcome!
Once in Paraguay, you’ll attend approximately 110 hours of Spanish language classes (4 hours per day, 5 days per week) over the course of 6 weeks. The language courses will take place in the AFS Paraguay building in Asunción. Classes run Monday through Friday, in the morning or the afternoon (depending on your level). Instructors use dynamic teaching methods that combine formal language lessons with interactive learning, which means you’ll be able to learn Spanish in-context while getting a feel for the people and the culture.
On some Saturdays, there’ll be excursions to nearby towns that specialize in handicrafts to give you a feel for the rich cultural background of the area. You could visit the goldsmiths of Luque, the potters in Aregua, or the embroiderers in Itaugua. About a month into your stay, you’ll have the opportunity to go on a weekend-long trip outside of your host community. Past trips have been to places like San Bernardino (a popular summer resort), Encarnacion (near the Jesuit missions in Itapua), and Ciudad del Este (near Itaipu, the biggest dam in the world), and Iguazu Falls.
Otherwise, you’ll be able to spend time with your host family and experience life as a regular teenager. You’ll find that young people in Paraguay often gather together in town plazas to relax, chat, and get something to eat. Dancing is popular, whether traditional or contemporary, especially the Danza Paraguaya (the Paraguayan Polka). As for sports, soccer is the country’s favorite, and you’re likely to come across passionate fans of all ages.
In Paraguay you can find street vendors almost anywhere you go, and it’s common for people to eat their meals in public squares. Popular dishes include mandioca (cassava), sopa Paraguaya (cornbread baked with cheese, onions, and sometimes meat), chipa (hard cheese bread), tortillas, and empanadas (deep-fried meat or vegetable turnovers). Paraguayans often relax by drinking tereré (cold herbal tea) and mate (hot herbal tea) with friends and family. It’s common to share tea from a guampa (a container made of wood, cattle horns, or gourds), taking a sip through the bombilla (metal straw) before passing it on to the next person. For breakfast you can try a hot drink called cocido, which contains mate, cooked sugar, and milk.
"Life-changing" is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad.
"Transformed" is another one. When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. That transformation isn’t visible only to you, though - others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers, ranging from language fluency to intercultural competence and critical reasoning. "Life-changing" means it’s only the beginning.
Please Note: Travel date ranges are meant to help with general scheduling and are subject to change; please don’t book any travel based on these dates until you’ve received confirmation from AFS. All programs, prices, and travel dates are subject to change without notice.