DuWayne and Shannon Peterson and family — Fabio Yaksik, Amelia and Nick.

Young Bolivian is enjoying school, family life in Springfield

International student experiences include the process of assimilating the new culture, and despite much preparation beforehand, can be overwhelming. 

Fabio Yaksik, 17, of Bolivia, who is attending Springfield High School during the 2015-16 academic year, and is living with the DuWayne and Shannon Peterson family on a farm northeast of Springfield, suffered “culture shock,” say his American parents.  “Culture shock” is a term used to describe the anxiety produced when a person moves from a familiar culture to an entirely different cultural or social environment. 

A smiling Fabio describes it as “interesting,” and has adjusted well.

The setting is quite a contrast for the young man coming from a very large metropolitan area of a temperate climate to a small rural community with changing seasons that include a harsh winter. 

Life with the Peterson family has given Fabio a younger brother, Nick, 12, and little sister, Amelia, 6, that, he says, is “different” and “enjoyable.”  He also enjoys spending time with the Petersons’ oldest son, Sam, 20, a student at Gustavus Adolphus College.    

Life on the farm is quiet and calm; much different than life in a very large city. “I like the farm,” says Fabio.  “I like nature and animals.” 

Fabio was quick to say, however, that he doesn’t like the cold Minnesota weather.  “I wanted to see the snow, but I didn’t know Minnesota was the coldest state,” he said during a recent interview. “We don’t get snow, we don’t get wind, we don’t get any of that,” in Bolivia, said Fabio.  Driving on icy roads is a bit unnerving. 

As the young man researched Springfield before coming here, he learned he would be coming to a community of 2,100 inhabitants, while his home school alone has 3,000 students enrolled. “I thought, everyone knows everyone. I thought it would be pretty interesting;” and that has turned out to be true, he said.

Fabio, a participant in the Nacel Open Door student program, is happy to be among five international students attending Springfield High School this year, giving him first friendships and an immediate support system.  

The Yaksik family resides in the capital city of La Paz, located on the western side of Bolivia, a country in central South America, with a varied terrain spanning Andes mountains, the Atacama Desert and Amazon Basin rainforest.   The La Paz Metropolitan area, formed by the cities of La Paz, El Alto, and Viacha, make the most populous urban area of Bolivia, with a population of 2.3 million inhabitants.  Fabio’s father Osvaldo, is a police officer; his mother, Fabiola, is a lawyer; and he has two older brothers, Alejandro, 23, and Pablo, 32. 

Since his elementary school days, Fabio has wanted   an  international     study experiennce.  His brother, Alejandro, had been an international student in the state of Washington. “When he came back home he always told stories about how much he learned, what a wonderful experience he had,” related Fabio.

Coming to Springfield as a foreign student, Fabio’s greatest fear was language barrier.  Although he had studied English in school, and had learned a lot about the English language by watching American movies and listening to American music, he had no practical experience speaking English. 

He wondered if he would do well in expressing himself.  “When I arrived here I had to make my best impressions because Springfield is a small town, and I would be easily identified as a foreign exchange student,” Fabio said.  “I was real nervous about the language, school and everything.”

Fabio has conquered his fears, speaks fluent English, is an honor student, has acquired many friends, is enjoying school, loves his American family, and enjoying life in the Springfield community. 

A senior at Springfield High School, Fabio is enrolled in physics, history, English, marketing, pre-calculus and physical education, and has earned a place on the school’s A Honor Roll. He also participates in basketball and plans to participate in track in the spring.  He played basketball in La Paz, but is finding the sport more exciting in Springfield. “They play the game at a much higher level here,” he said.  “I have learned a lot.”    The physical size of the players is also higher in Springfield.  “I’m considered tall in my country” at 5 ft. 10 inches,” he said, laughing.   “But here, many of the players are 6 feet tall and taller.”

Christmas was a special time for the young Bolivian, but Fabio admitted that he was stricken with homesickness during the holidays.   “I had a great time with the Petersons but it was hard to be away from my family,” he said.   The Petersons and Fabio communicated and celebrated by skype, but Fabio missed his family for the celebration that, he says, traditionally begins on Christmas Eve and continues throughout the night and into Christmas Day.   “We always stayed up until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning with celebration and conversation,” he said.  “We talk about memories of the past year, plans for the next year, presents, family and all kinds of things.” 

Fabio has enjoyed a trip with the Peterson family to Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota during November, and snow tubing with them at Brainerd during the holidays. Despite his dislike of the cold weather, he recently took the Polar Plunge in St. Peter with his American brothers, Sam and Nick.  “Sam talked us into it,” said Fabio.  How did it feel when he hit that cold water?   “It hurt,” Fabio responded, but he thoroughly enjoyed soaking in the hot tub afterwards.  He eagerly anticipates a trip with the Peterson family to Cancun, Mexico, later this month. 

He looks forward to “the snow to go away,” spring athletic activities, prom, and graduation. He understands that graduation is a community celebration in Springfield, and eagerly anticipates those festivities. 

 Fabio plans to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) in May. The results of the test will determine which colleges he will make application for admission.   Fabio plans to major in studies that will take him to a career as a financial engineer. Financial engineering is a multidisciplinary field involving financial theory, the methods of engineering, the tools of mathematics and the practice of programming.

Fabio is glad that he took the chance to come to the United States; and  is considering returning to the United States for post-college studies.  

The Petersons are happy to have Fabio in their home. “We have always thought about hosting an international student,” said Shannon.  DuWayne’s cousin has hosted foreign students a number of times, she said, and the Petersons experienced joy as they cared for a number of foster children.   “We might have hosted a student when our children were older, she noted, “but this just happened to work out.” 

















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