Ahh Paraguay: one of two landlocked countries (Bolivia being the other one) in South America. Taking a trip to Paraguay ensures an experience you will rarely find elsewhere, the main reason being, it is a country of contrasting elements.
Verdant forests and bucolic pastures mix with urban street life and tall, concrete buildings. All in all, Paraguay is a country of opposites, but that is exactly what makes it such a charming place to study in. It offers a bit of everything South America has to offer!
Poverty strikes many areas within Paraguay, but it still retains areas of extreme wealth. A trip down to a scenic, untouched waterfall can be combined with a visit to the world’s largest drinking water reservoir (Guarani Aquifer) and world’s biggest hydroelectric dam (The Itaipú Dam). An experience studying abroad in Paraguay will award you a perspective that not many get to enjoy. Before you sign up for your dream program abroad, read the tips and how to's from the Go Overseas pros.
Photo credit: Deni Williams.
Planning Your Trip
The currency is the Guarani. A dollar will get you around 4500 Guaranis. Thus, Paraguay is an extremely affordable place to live. Money will definitely not be an issue while here. As an example, 20000 Guaranis (4 dollars) will get you an all-you-can-eat buffet at a nice place. 5000 Guaranis are enough to buy a hamburger. Definitely bring cash along with you at all times. Much of the food you’ll probably buy is from street vendors. However, at the Mall (if you’re going to do a lot of shopping) a credit or debit card will work – just be sure to let your bank know where you’re going to avoid any problem once you’re there.
Culture Shock and Support
Studying abroad in Paraguay will definitely be a rewarding experience. However, the contrasting aspects of Paraguay may be a bit daunting to think about and get used to at the beginning of your trip. In addition, if you’re studying outside of Asuncion, Guarani will be the language of choice, so that may be an additional obstacle. If you believe culture shock may be a problem, be sure to find a program that really caters to American students, so that you can be helped in English or Spanish.
However, remember that you have your fellow students! If you’re missing the long hours of studying and the obnoxiously loud people back in the US, well, then you’re weird.
On a more serious note, talk to your fellow peers! If you’re experiencing some homesickness, there is every chance that they are as well. Don’t be embarrassed if you need to talk to someone about home, it is completely normal and who knows, you may become even closer friends!
Now, about transportation. The bus is the generally most common form of transportation. However, taxi is cheap enough and reliable enough to be a viable form of transportation as well.
As I’m approaching my word limit, I’ll give you a few insider things to do while you’re there: Crucero del Paraguay offers luxury wooden boat sailing, Paraguay Safari offers Paraguay’s wildlife, and Don Vito is Paraguayan fast food at its finest.
Culture and Immersion
To keep in the theme of being diverse, I’ll try to offer up as diverse a list of things to do as possible. After all, Paraguay is essentially a fountain of everything, ready to be dived into and explored.
- Take a tour of the Itaipú Dam – I think the “world’s largest” tag should be enough of a reason on its own to warrant a visit. However, viewers will be awestruck by the sheer magnitude of the dam as they try to figure out how exactly such a thing was built. Not to worry! The beginning of the tour is a 30-minute film on the creation of the dam. Be sure to take pictures and boast to your friends: if there EVER is a day where you and your friends decide to go dam touring (slim chance, I know) around the US, you can have the satisfaction of knowing (and gloating) you’ve seen the biggest one!
- Shopping in Mariscal Lopez Shopping Mall – After spending hours in the hot sun, take a break in the Mariscal Lopez Shopping Mall. Whether it’s food, ice cream, movies or retail stores, you can pretty much find everything you might need (or want) in this mall. The best part? 10% discount for students if you present your I.D. at the reception desk. (It’s actually for tourists but I’m sure they’ll let it slide when they hear your broken Spanish).
- Art at the National Fine Arts Museum – At least one museum is mandatory when visiting a new city or country. Since its inception in 1909, the museum has constantly reflected the atmosphere and moods of Paraguay, so you can definitely get a sense of Paraguay’s cultural history by going through this museum. International and Paraguayan art run abound here.
- Salto Cristal Falls – Enough of all that urban, city stuff. The other half of Paraguay’s appeal manifests itself in its nature. Pretty and tropical, the Salto Cristal Falls require a trek into the middle of the rainforest, so asking the locals about the directions and whereabouts of the falls is probably a good idea. Though, getting lost in such a beautiful area would not be the worst experience. Be sure to pack a swimsuit (if it’s warm) and take a dive into the waters.
- Carnival – Ahh the greatest time of year in South America. Occurring in February, Carnival offers a fantastic amalgamation of infectious dancing, Brazilian music, vibrant colors and energetic crowds. An interesting element that separates Paraguay’s Carnival from other countries’ is the soap. Cannons shoot soap into the crowds creating a truly fantastic atmosphere. A must go.
As a fellow student, I cannot tell you how much I sympathize with our money plight. So! Here a couple scholarship opportunities.
- Diversity abroad offers a number of scholarships for those studying abroad in South America!
- The Fulbright provides scholarships specifically for those studying abroad.
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships »