Gallivanting in Guatemala

This summer, three Western Reserve Academy students, Ellie Frato-Sweeney ’20, Timothy Zamarro ’20, and Emerson McReynolds ’19, traveled with Julianna Lopez, chair of the Modern and Classical Languages department, to Guatemala to engage in community service, studying abroad, and exploring the nation. Flying out from Cleveland on May 28th, all three students worked in the city of Antigua with a program called Los Patojos (meaning “the little ones”) to volunteer with primary-school children for five days. From there, McReynolds and Frato-Sweeney traveled to Guatemala City to attend a bilingual school while staying with different host families. Zamarro, however, traveled to the rural countryside of Guatemala to attend a strictly-Spanish school. Notably, nearly a day after the group had left Antigua, a volcano erupted. Thankfully, nobody from the WRA trip was injured as a result.

Students’ experiences with their host families sounded overwhelmingly positive. As Frato-Sweeney recounts, “I watched Marvel movies with my host sister, taught her how to make earrings, and collected gifts for my family!” Zamarro similarly had a good experience, recounting how in his free time he visited a giant farm estate, an amusement park, and a Jurassic world park, along with many other unique cultural activities.

All three students appreciated how much their Spanish improved as a result of the complete cultural and lingual immersion. In addition, through the opportunities to visit schools, they were able to improve their Spanish while getting the chance to learn how Guatemalan students learn different subjects. Outside of classes, though, they had plenty of opportunities to learn about the culture of Guatemala. Frato-Sweeney recounted the opportunity to travel across the country on a sort of vacation with her host family, in particular. All three students also recommended that any students interested in greatly improving their Spanish while experiencing a fascinating new culture should take the opportunity to go on this trip in the summers to come.

– Jasmine Wheeler ’20

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