The Ellis School welcomed Sofia Alejandra Roldan Centron, an exchange student from Paraguay, to the Upper School while she visited Pittsburgh on her summer vacation. A niece of a Middle School Ellis parent, Sofia had been to Pittsburgh once before, but had no educational experience in America prior to her time at Ellis.
Upper School Spanish Teacher, Jack Gaddess, facilitated the exchange and partnered Sofia with Ellis sophomore and Spanish student, Leah Ewers. With much of the language barrier eliminated―Sofia has studied English since she was very young―Leah and Sofia were able to converse and engage with each other, students, and teachers without issue. For two weeks, Sofia shadowed Leah and accompanied her to classes, free periods, and lunch.
In addition to following Leah’s schedule, Sofia made classroom visits in the Lower and Middle School to share the similarities and differences between growing up in South America vs. North America. Ellis students asked thoughtful questions and inquired about Sofia’s school experience, family, interests, and life in Paraguay.
Sofia described her school schedule to the Middle School Global Citizenship class―her school day in Paraguay starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m.―freeing up her afternoon for lunch at home and plenty of time for sports like handball and soccer. In the fourth grade classroom, Sofia taught students about weather patterns, wildlife, and traditional holiday celebrations in Paraguay. She also emphasized the many commonalities she shared with Ellis students, like how she watches Netflix and listens to Ed Sheeran, and how those much outweighed the differences.
Sofia spent her time in Pittsburgh shopping on Walnut Street, going to dinners in the city with her aunt, and even attended the Upper School Semi-Formal dance at the Ace Hotel. Her immersion into the life and culture of an Ellis student was extensive, and had she been clad in the signature kilt, no one would have guessed she was a temporary visitor from a country over 4,500 miles away.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I came to Ellis, the school is so different than mine, but the same in a lot of ways. I wasn’t as confident in my English before, but now I can understand way more than I used to. It was really cool to be paired with Leah so I could see we are learning the same things, just on a different schedule,” said Sofia.
At The Ellis School, global initiatives are integrated into the Upper School curriculum and across all three divisions. Sofia’s visit to Ellis enriched students’ knowledge of Paraguayan life, and deepened their acceptance and understanding of a foreign culture. This real-world experience teaches students the importance of an international perspective as they learn about global citizenship, leadership, and identity. By giving girls the tools they need to succeed in the classroom, at college, and as global citizens, we inspire them to create a life full of possibilities and potential.