A Paraguayan’s Summer Story

Hello all—it’s the newbie again. Normally, I’d be the one writing about the students on campus, but today it’s going to be a little different. The following words are straight from Jazmin Mendieta Gauto, a Dordt student from Paraguay who wrote about her own experiences at Dordt during this summer. Enjoy :)

 “Hi, my name is Jazmin Arami Mendieta Gauto, from Paraguay, and I am a student at Dordt. I am currently studying Secondary Education and English/Language Arts, and I have a Music, KSP, and an ESL minor. I will be a sophomore this year, and it will be one year since I left my home country.” 

Whenever I say this, most people stare at me and then ask me: so, how did you end up at Dordt?  

That’s actually a great question. I am not the first person from Paraguay who is studying at Dordt College—I’ve heard about Dordt through other people from my country who graduated from Dordt. All of us have had unique and wonderful stories here in Sioux Center. Stories about the school year, stories about spending Christmas away from home and of course, summer stories. Today, I guess, it is my turn to share my story—my summer story. 

As the seniors graduated and left campus with the rest of the students at the beginning of the summer, I knew that this summer was going to be an unique one. Since I would not be going to Paraguay, I would be staying on campus with friends. I would not have to worry for exams, papers, midterms, and other assignments for the rest of the summer (just kidding, I took an online class and did some reading andwriting for the fall, but let’s pretend that I was more relaxed, ok?). So yes, I had no assignments coming up, and I was about to start my summer jobs at the Music Department at Dordt, and at the Dordt Library. I was (and now that I am currently working in those places still am!) very excited for my work in those two places.   

I love people and their stories, and that is why I enjoy so much my work at the library. In the library, I am in charge of inventorying, reshelving, working on various projects, and checking in & out different books and movies to people. It is amazing to walk through the library and see the different books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias, and other items that are there. Some of them are antiques, and other books are newer. I have seen books that are in Dutch, books that are one-hundred years old (or more), books that have dedications written in the front page -- dedications that were written in the 1920s. The library holds a plethora of stories and, as people walk into the library and they pick a book to read, those stories are embraced by the living stories of Sioux Center. It is priceless for me to see people walking out of the library with a book, because I know that they are not going to be the same after they finish to embrace the story that they’re holding.   

The fact that I am fascinated by people and their stories is the same reason why I also enjoy my work at the music department. As a Music minor, and as a member of Chorale and Jazz Band, I spend a lot of time through the school year in the Music Department. Now, it has been great to work behind the scenes in the Music Building so that everything can be ready for the upcoming school year. During the summer I had the chance to chaperone in an organ camp! That was a wonderful experience. I absolutely loved chaperoning with other Dordt students, Daniel and Justina, and to meet these students who came from different parts of the country. My favorite part of the camp was to listen students playing their favorite pieces and improvising on the organ.  One of the big highlights of the camp was watching a silent film with live organ music performed by John Schwandt, who also taught organ in the camp, at the BJ Haan Auditorium. It was quite unique, Mr. Schwandt rocked that organ for one-and a half hours non-stop! Besides this experience, I would say that filing old and new music has been one of the most remarkable experiences so far. The reason? Once again, the stories that those pieces hold. Many of the old pieces that I took out of the choir folders and filed in our Music library were pieces that I performed with the choir, in other words, music that I performed with my friends. “Let us not become weary, weary in doing good,” “Praise to the Lord, the almighty the king of creation,” those were words that had struck my heart and shaped my mind and soul during the school year. As I held each piece of music in my hands before filing it, I embraced each memory that I had with them. As I put new music in our files I got excited for the stories that those pieces already held, and the memories that we will make with those pieces in each rehearsal.   

The biggest highlight of my first summer at Dordt is definitely the people around me, the places around me, and God within these two. Sharing tacos with my roommates in our apartment; late night deep conversations in my room and in other rooms;  having ice cream with people on campus; meeting interns from other colleges and randomly becoming friends; going on late night walks with Anneke, my friend and roommate, to the prairie and observe the stars and the lightning bugs; interacting and learning from my bosses and co-workers at work; trying pretzels for the first time (thanks to Kim Brinkerhoff); going to the taco truck in town with friends; watching Latin American movies in Spanish with my friend Sarah; biking through the prairie; worshiping God with friends; listening to Pastor John Lee’s sermons at Bethel CRC; getting to talk in Spanish with Sarah, Caty, and Marcus (my Spanish major friends), hanging out with the Nydams (my roommate’s family), and more. I wish I could name all of them. Their stories have embraced and shaped my story, and I have embraced their stories. 

That is my summer story in a nutshell. So far, it has been a great one. A year ago, I would have never imagined living thousands of miles away from my home country in a context that I was not familiar with. But as a good friend of mine expressed once: “home is a starting point,” so I like to think that my story had a starting point and that it keeps moving where God leads. Today I am glad that I can narrate this story from Dordt College/Sioux Center, Iowa.