Students from Paraguay get a taste of Wichita


Courtesy photo

Students from Paraguay pose on the Rhatigan Student Center balcony.

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic took many opportunities away. Whether that be graduations, weddings or vacations — everyone made significant sacrifices. 

For some students, the pandemic took away something they were craving: study abroad opportunities. But now that the world is looking more hopeful, more and more students are now able to travel internationally. 

The BECAL program is bringing a part of this back to the Wichita State community. Through this specific program, a group of students from Paraguay get the opportunity to travel to Wichita and attend the university for a semester.

“It’s a scholarship that the Paraguay government provides for their students to go to study in another country,” Ann Burger, associate director of study abroad and exchange programs, said. 

“There’s a Kansas Paraguay partnership … They specifically coordinated this program a few years ago for students to come to Kansas and receive a full scholarship.” 

The BECAL program was affected heavily in March of 2020 when the pandemic first hit. The group of students who were studying at WSU that semester had to leave early and complete their courses online. 

But in Spring of 2021, students were able to come back to Wichita State.

“They came, even when we were still dealing with quite a bit of the pandemic … but they were able to still come and have a good experience and a good semester here last spring,” Burger said.

Burger said that Kansas is the perfect place for students to get introduced to American culture.

“It provides really a great experience on just learning more about our culture and the United States in general, specifically in the midwest,” Burger said. “Helping them with being able to continue working on their English, specifically here, in Kansas in the midwest, it’s a great location for people and students whose English is not their first language … to be somewhere where we have less of an accent.”

Student Celine Sanabria Ferreira is one of the students awarded the BECAL scholarship. She said her experience so far has been nothing but rewarding.

“Everything has been amazing so far, I’ve met a lot of people from different countries, from here to far away,” Ferreira said. “I love my classes.”

Ferreira is taking a handful of different classes, including Creative Writing — which she said is one of her favorites.

“I really like to write, but I always write in Spanish,” she said. “I express myself better in Spanish. But when I started here and we had to write our first poem, it was kind of difficult, but the professor gave us some tips and everything and now I’m writing my fourth one and I feel confident.”

When she returns to Paraguay,  Ferreira said she hopes to never forget about the different people she was able to know through Wichita State.

“I will love to be able to understand different people,” she said. “Here I have met different people from different perspectives and everything so that would be something amazing to carry with me to Paraguay.”

Yumi Kikuchi is another one of the fifteen students studying at WSU from Paraguay. She said going through the pandemic has made the experience even more exciting.

“We all were so self isolating for a long time, and now like going back again, travel internationally, have the opportunity to not just know the culture of one country but different countries, I think it makes it more special,” she said.

Kikuchi said she would recommend studying abroad to anyone. She said while it is insightful to go on trips to other countries, living full time in one adds more value to those trips.

“It’s eye opening,” she said. “It’s really different from going for like vacations for two weeks, and just going around. It’s really interesting for me, we came here and everything was new, but now it’s like ‘Oh my God, we’re here for the full semester.’”

Paraguay student Joel Pereira said that his favorite aspect of WSU is the overall diversity.

“The most important thing would be the cultural diversity,” Pereira said.  “You’re walking around campus and you can meet some people from India, some people from Pakistan, some people from Spain … and you’re being friends with them and talking to them and that’s something very, very special to me.”

Pereira said that the United States has gone more back to pre-pandemic than Paraguay. He said this is one of the reasons why he has enjoyed his experience.

“Here in the U.S. it looks like things are getting back to normal,” Pereira said. “We can take classes in person here, that is something that is not happening [in Paraguay]. Here you have the opportunity to go to classes to meet your classmates and meet your professors and talk to them.”

Pereira said that he is grateful for the Paraguay government for providing him this scholarship, and also for the university to give students these experiences.

“I really appreciate that universities here in the U.S. are doing these things for international students,” he said.