Lessons from Paraguay

My proudest moment of my experience this summer with La Fundación Paraguaya took place during the last few days of my internship. During this time the organization asks each intern to give a final presentation to co-workers and supervisors that requires reflecting on experiences and sharing challenges faced and insights learned. For me, I was excited to present as, in general, I embrace reflecting and the way in which my perspective broadens and deepens with each experience. I’ve found this type of thought so valuable, in fact, that I journaled my thoughts consistently throughout the 9 weeks that I was there. Interestingly, however, it was a story told about me by my supervisor that allowed me to see I had overlooked my proudest accomplishment.

My presentation brought up many ideas that certainly had great value.  For example, I spoke about having gained a better understanding of the workings of a non-profit organization and the challenges faced in social justice work. I spoke about honing my Spanish skills, and absorbing the culture of the people and country of Paraguay. Yet after presenting, I remember my supervisor, Guillermo, asking to share a story with the rest of the group. He said, “I remember one of the first days Brandon was in the office and we went to help a class carry out their business plan at one of the high schools. During these sessions, the students are constantly asking questions, speaking quickly, using specific vocabulary—it was obviously a difficult task for Brandon, but at that time I was with him to help out. When we returned to the office, I expressed to Brandon that, if he were up to it, I’d like him to travel alone to the high schools and work with the students alone. At first, he expressed doubts, saying ‘I don’t know, Guille, I don’t know if I speak well enough—if I will be able to understand their questions well enough and explain some of these concepts.’  At that point, we had decided I would accompany him again. Yet, just a few hours later before the end of the day he approached me and, with a new confidence, said ‘I’d like to go on Friday if you don’t mind.’”

 

One of the “companies” I worked with, here with the student managers.

The reason that I bring up this story is that, while I focused on goals I had outlined in my World of Work application as my accomplishments, which are certainly important, I realized that I had overlooked the decision that made all of these goals attainable, which was finding the courage to be vulnerable and step outside of my comfort zone. In listening to the story, it had become so transparent to me how much this risk of making mistakes and being in a new environment scared me, and hearing it told by my supervisor while knowing I had overcome this obstacle is truly an accomplishment that holds much value to me. The effect of this fundamental decision made my other goals possible; that is, opting to work with the students alone meant that I did not have anyone other than myself to rely on for understanding and answering complex concepts, and therefore helped me fortify my confidence and skill with Spanish. Furthermore, this decision put me one-on-one with students and allowed me to feel as though I was making a tangible, positive difference in their lives. For me, having had great opportunities such as attending Brandeis, was so rewarding as I felt that I was giving back after being given so much.

Speaking with one of the students at a Paraguayan national commerce event called “La Expo”

As I return to Brandeis, I am excited to continue to speak Spanish and have plans to attend “Charlamos” meetings; a club on campus devoted to speaking Spanish and celebrating Hispanic culture. A Brandeis’ student run club called English Language Learning Initiative is another great opportunity to involve myself in volunteer work that will expand my cultural perspective.  Additionally, I believe I enter this academic year with a greater appreciation of other cultures and look to attend the many cultural celebrations that Brandeis hosts each semester. Above all, however, I hope to continue to find the confidence to step out of my comfort zone, as I have come to realize how much one learns about himself through doing so. Lastly, I would like to say thank you so much to Brandeis and the WOW committee for offering such an enriching experience to their students.  Opportunities like this make Brandeis such a special institution.

Brandon Frank ’12

 

2 thoughts on “Lessons from Paraguay”

  1. I really liked what you said about stepping out of your comfort zone. Having the courage to do this is always vital to growth!

  2. Nice job putting your Spanish skills to use. When you’re working with students one-on-one, there is no formula to how you should speak – I am sure this was a great experience to be spontaneous. I like that you plan to extend your experiences in Paraguay over at Brandeis.

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