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Willowbrook alumnus shares experiences of traveling abroad in Paraguay

Pictured is Willowbrook alumnus Greg Ross (class of 2014), who recently studied abroad in Paraguay. Photo provided

Pictured is Willowbrook alumnus Greg Ross (class of 2014 - back row, center), who recently studied abroad in Paraguay. During his travels, he also visited with family members in Paraguay (pictured with Ross). Photo provided

When Willowbrook alumnus Greg Ross (class of 2014) found an old stack of letters with correspondence between his late grandmother and family members in Paraguay, it ignited in him a spark to experience his heritage and reconnect with his family overseas. He found his relatives on Facebook, which led him on a journey to not only discovering his family roots, but also learning life lessons through traveling abroad.

For 10 weeks (from late June to early September), Ross visited and studied Paraguay through a Spanish scholarship from his college, The University of Chicago, where he is a history major and a Spanish minor. He stayed with a local family in Asunción (the capital city of Paraguay) while conducting research for his thesis paper, which focuses on the first few decades of Paraguay’s independence and the relationship between the Paraguay River and the country’s period of isolation during that time.

“At first it felt a little strange to be in a place that’s unfamiliar and to speak a language that’s not native to me, but it has been incredible to develop such strong connections in Paraguay,” Ross said. “Stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning about a new country and culture helps you meet new people, develop new friendships and try new things – which can open many doors in the future.”

Along with his research, Ross also was able to spend time with his relatives.

“My grandfather was born in Paraguay, but passed away before I was born,” Ross said. “I always had a desire to learn more about my family, and this trip was an amazing opportunity to meet them.”

Ross said highlights of his travels included going to a Paraguayan club soccer game, taking a trip to Buenos Aires and finding the house his great-grandfather’s brother constructed in Paraguay after he moved there in 1905. He also enjoyed seeing the variety of architectural styles and figuring out how to function in day-to-day situations while in a foreign country. His trip was covered by ABC news in Paraguay, and the article can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y75coxq5.

Ross said his four years of Spanish at Willowbrook certainly helped him during his visit.

“There’s such a difference between taking classes and actually being immersed in the language and culture of a country,” Ross said. “Willowbrook helped develop my passion for the Spanish language and prepared me for college-level courses and study-abroad experiences.”

In the future, Ross looks to pursue his postgraduate degree in urban planning – and, of course, he plans to return to Paraguay.

“At first, I was nervous to leave home,” Ross said. “But by the time I left Paraguay, I had acquired a confidence I didn’t have when I arrived.”

Willowbrook High School
1250 S. Ardmore Avenue Villa Park, IL 60181
Phone: 630-530-3400 Fax: 630-530-3401
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