Study Abroad: The Path From the Sleepy Suburbs to the Global Stage

A promising high school student from Paraguay almost abandons her goal of learning English, only to receive a life-changing opportunity to earn two degrees at a university in Kansas.

A math whiz from Chile moves to California to earn a Ph.D. in aeronautics and eventually becomes a professor at one of the leading universities in Washington, D.C.

And a young woman from the New Jersey suburbs finds her passion for history and politics come alive in the cafes and museums of Argentina and eventually dedicates her career to diplomacy in the Western Hemisphere.

What do all of these stories have in common? They demonstrate the transformative impact of student exchanges between the United States and our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere, which have benefited tens of thousands of individuals and all of our countries over the years.

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‘English Can Open Doors for Me’

English-language students present at the Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano in Chepen, Peru, December 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Kay Webb Mayfield is the Director of the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

As the school year draws to a close in South America, hundreds of students are celebrating completion of their two-year English Access program, and recognizing how much Access has done for them beyond developing proficiency in a new language. During a visit last week, I had the chance to visit some of these students in Peru and Paraguay. They expressed themselves with confidence when we spoke English together, and reflected thoughtfully on their experience in essays on “What English Access Means to Me.”

At the Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano in the northwest Peruvian city of Chepen, the Access graduates-to-be talk knowledgeably about important figures in U.S. history such as Benjamin Franklin (for whom the Institute’s school is named), celebrate U.S. holidays, develop an awareness of civic responsibility, and dream about their future. The Centro Cultural Paraguayo… more »

Paraguay Proudly Celebrates 200 Years of Independence
The skyline of Asuncion, Paraguay, is photographed, May 2011. [State Dept. photo]

About the Author: James Russo serves as a Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay.

Paraguay will be in the spotlight as it celebrates 200 years of independence with ceremonies and celebrations May 14-15.

Paraguay has much to be proud of. This sparsely populated country the size of California has seven million people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $17 billion. Last year, the country caught the attention of business leaders and economists around the world with its spectacular GDP growth of 15.3 percent, the third highest worldwide, largely due to the commodities boom. A traditional friend and ally of the United States, which has a 64 percent favorability rating among the Paraguayan public, Paraguay even has a state named after U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Paraguayans boast that 85 percent of the population speaks both Spanish and Guarani, an indigenous language. The country is known for its rich red soil, spectacular Jesuit… more »