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Assist Scholarship

Last year, Laguna Blanca became an ASSIST member school. Each year, a host family in our school community will welcome an international exchange student to live with them for the year and attend Laguna.

Itziar de Pedro

My phone beeped, the screen lit up, and I caught my breath. It was there. That word, ASSIST, staring at me… I remember that moment as if it were yesterday. That was the night I received the email saying that I had won the scholarship to study abroad and had been accepted to Laguna Blanca School in California (California! I couldn’t believe it).
After that, everything’s a blur: excitement, laughter, obsessive checking of my email to see if I had received information about the host family, more enthusiasm, nervousness, thrill when I was finally able to contact my host sister, texting, intense packing, tight hugs to my loved ones, adrenaline, a thirst for adventure and finally, the plane landed, 5,853 miles away from everything I knew.
ASSIST is a nonprofit organization that “matches academically talented, multilingual international students with American independent secondary schools.”
In fact, scholars from 52 nations have been part of this program and have benefited from this opportunity.
Last year was Laguna’s first year as an ASSIST member school. I was the first ASSIST scholar, and from now on, the school will welcome a different international student each year.
To apply for the scholarship, students have to submit a personal essay, three teacher recommendations, an online questionnaire, their transcript and an English test.
If they pass that round, they have to do an interview and wait a couple of months to receive an email either accepting or rejecting them — the acceptance rate for the full scholarship is only 6 percent.
The most interesting part is that students have no idea where they are going to be placed.
All I knew before that email was that it was going to be an independent school in the US. It could have been a boarding or a day school, a co-ed or single-sex school, in any of the states.
So, I couldn’t have been happier when I received the email saying I was going to Santa Barbara.
I immediately Googled it, and when I saw the pictures of palm trees, the ocean and the beach, I knew it was going to be awesome.
And it has been better than awesome — it has been perfect. I could not have asked for a better year.
I want to thank everyone in this community, especially my host family, for making this year one that I will always remember, for creating memories that I will cherish forever and for making this once foreign place feel like home. Thank you.

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