PSP’s Scholar Abroad: Spotlight on Jonas Anderson
There is bravery in venturing out of one’s comfort zone. The Partnership Scholars Program in large part focuses on fostering this very bravery in our scholars, encouraging them to try new things, explore all possibilities and answer when opportunity knocks. Upon entry into PSP, many students in the program find it hard to imagine leaving their small communities, let alone traveling across the country. Some see the scholarship as a means to begin exploring the world. One such scholar is Jonas Anderson, recent Ukiah High School graduate and current Rotary International Youth Exchange Ambassador in Paraguay where he is studying for a year before starting college.
Jonas first heard about the Rotary Youth Exchange program two years ago when a friend applied. At the time, Jonas’s mother was working for a local nonprofit organization that was doing a presentation for the exchange program and asked Jonas if he was interested in applying. Having taken four years of Spanish in high school, studying in Paraguay or Argentina made sense to him. “Most people do their junior year of high school,” says Jonas. “I was a little late to that, so I got everything out of the way early.” Jonas completed all of his high school requirements last year and walked with the graduating class of 2016. Essentially, his year in Paraguay functions as a “gap year” as he continues to take high school classes through the exchange program beginning college in the United States next fall. “Right now what I do is I go to school five days a week at a high school here and I try to follow along in Spanish and Guarani, the indigenous language,” says Jonas.
The spirit of the program is incredibly meaningful for Jonas as he continues to befriend native Paraguayans and integrate more into the culture of the country. “The whole goal of the program is to not only send high school aged students into the world to experience other places but so that people from those places can meet citizens from the United States and get to know them,” says Jonas. By participating in such a program, he sees himself and others “trying to destroy stereotypes and bring the world together.”
To prepare for his year abroad, Jonas spent time refining his Spanish by “listening to a lot of Spanish music and watching movies with Spanish subtitles.” He also spoke on the phone with the daughter of his host parents in Paraguay, getting to know her while at the same time acquiring an ear for the Castellano dialect spoken in that region of South America. “Right now, I feel like I’m doing really well with Spanish and feeling pretty fluent,” says Jonas. “I have not had to struggle these first few months, less so than other students in the program who didn’t prepare as much.”
After just a little over two months living in Encarnación, Jonas is feeling more confident and comfortable with the language, the culture and his host family. Jonas connects with other exchange students through various activities offered through the program and participates in occasional Rotary Club meetings and events. “I’ve been here for two months and I’ve gone to one club meeting and one integration camp that was for all of the exchange students in this district,” says Jonas. “A lot of clubs in the United States require a lot of participation, it really depends on where you are.” He will likely stay with two other families before his exchange is completed in July 2017 and during his summer break in November, Jonas plans to travel to Patagonia with the Rotary Club, then possibly visit Brazil with his family.
As far as college is concerned, Jonas is considering applying to Berklee College of Music, Columbia College in Chicago, CSU Monterey Bay and possibly USC. He’s been working with his mentor, Penny Walker, to prepare his applications and continues to receive support from PSP through the year as he finalizes his college choice. Guitar is his number one priority and ideally he wants to enroll in a school that offers a popular music program, which is “hard to find because they are kind of new,” says Jonas. Paraguay is just the beginning: Jonas has more travel in mind. He’s already prioritized studying abroad in college as well with his eye on Berklee College of Music’s freshman year abroad program in Spain.