At the Tastes and Sounds of Nations at Pittsburg State in November, Jazmin Ramirez twirled, spun, dipped, and, at one point, laid on her stomach.
At the Tastes and Sounds of Nations at Pittsburg State in November, Jazmin Ramirez twirled, spun, dipped, and, at one point, laid on her stomach. All the while, she kept a glass bottle atop her head.
“The women, in places, didn’t have running water. So they would have to go to the rivers or the streams,” Ramirez said. “They probably had other things to carry in their hands. They would get tired and put the bottle of water on their heads. It later became a dance. Some people can balance two or three or five bottles on their heads. It’s also a very impressive thing to see, that’s why I performed it.”
Ramirez is one of 44 students at Pittsburg State from her home country of Paraguay. About 40 foreign countries are represented at Pittsburg State. Paraguay is the fifth-most populous international country at Pittsburg State.
The bottle dance Ramirez performed was even more interesting, because Ramirez is the International Student Association president.
That may be appropriate, since Ramirez is a political science and international studies student taking 21 hours and set to graduate from Pitt State in May. Ramirez said she would like to work one day in the Paraguayan government.
“If I work for the government, there are so many things that can be impacted in Paraguay,” Ramirez said. “I think I can go and change. I’d like to work in an embassy or some ministry. I cannot think I will be president. Being a woman, it is something that is a problem. I just want to work anywhere I can help.”
Ramirez is from the capitol of Paraguay, Asuncio. She worked an internship at the United Nations branch in Paraguay over the summer.
“It was interesting and a lot of work,” Ramirez said. “There were a lot of declarations and positions by different countries in regard to global warming and stuff like that. I had to translate it all.”
Jazmin made her transition to Pittsburg as part of an agreement between Paraguay and the state of Kansas. The agreement allows students like Jazmin to have in-state tuition to any school in Kansas after studying with PSU teachers and classes in Paraguay for two years. Many of Jazmin’s friends came to Pitt State, and she followed.
“I think if you have lived in Pittsburg, you know how Paraguay is,” Ramirez said. “There’s no mountains, no sea. It’s landlocked, so it’s very similar. That’s what the program was set up to do, is to link the country with a state that was pretty much similar.”
There were a few differences for Ramirez as she made the transition to a different country. Many of the social graces Americans expect are not an issue for Paraguayans.
Page 2 of 2 - “We don’t have personal space at all. I didn’t even know the concept until I got here,” Ramirez said. “And the germ thing? Nobody cares about germs in Paraguay. People are friendly here, but they are even more friendly in Paraguay.”
Jazmin said she was quickly accepted in the community.
In fact, Ramirez was nominated as a candidate for Homecoming Queen. She even became one of the six finalists for the honor.
“It was amazing. I had a blast,” she said. “Going through the interviews and representing the international body. It’s like I did that, and now other people can say we can do it, too. Sometimes, international students are afraid they cannot do something. Hopefully this will get other people to try.
“When I talked about it to people from home, they would say, ‘So you’re like a beauty queen or something?’ I would say, ‘No, no. It’s not like that,’” Ramirez said.
That doesn’t mean everything is always perfect in the switch to America.
“The other day, I told someone that I was from Paraguay. He then said, ‘Yes, I can tell you’re from far away.’ He thought I said ‘far away’ instead of ‘Paraguay,’” Ramirez said.
Andrew Nash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.