Sofia Guzman Asenjo was relieved to find out her family was safe shortly after the earthquake shook her hometown in Chile. She is an exchange student studying at Desert Vista High School and staying with Ahwatukee Foothills resident Liz Starks' family.

Sofia Guzman Asenjo is studying at Desert Vista High School this year as a foreign exchange student from Chile, and when a devastating earthquake struck her home country Feb. 27 she was immediately informed that her family was OK via a text message from her brother.

“I tried to text and call them back the day of the earthquake and I couldn’t get through, but the next day I was able to reach them,” Guzman Asenjo said. “It’s so weird to be far away when something like this happens at home.”

Hardest hit by the earthquake was the city of Concepcion, about 200 miles south of Chile’s capitol, Santiago. Guzman Asenjo’s family lives about 60 miles outside of Santiago, and she expects her family to feel aftershocks for the next two months.

“Thankfully our home had only a window broken and shelves falling over,” Guzman Asenjo said. “No one in our family was hurt.”

Guzman Asenjo is staying with the Starks family in Ahwatukee Foothills, and her host mother Liz Starks was thankful that Guzman Asenjo quickly found out her family was safe.

“Thank God for modern communication,” Starks said. “Sofia’s aunt called to tell me how her family was doing and she also sent a message to Sofia on Facebook.”

Aside from Guzman Asenjo, the Starks family is also paying close attention to the developments in Chile because their oldest daughter is planning to study abroad in Chile next school year.

“We have two big reasons to pay attention to what’s going on in Chile,” Starks said. “We are planning to go visit our daughter in Chile next year and also see Sofia while we’re there.”

Guzman Asenjo is the second foreign exchange student the Starks family has hosted, and Liz Starks was once a foreign exchange student herself.

“These aren’t people that come into your life once and are gone, it actually gives you family around the world,” Starks said. “Not only do you learn a lot about other people’s cultures by hosting a foreign exchange student, but you also learn about your own culture by seeing it through someone else’s eyes.”

Guzman Asenjo is spending the year in the U.S. through AFS Intercultural Programs. Host families are needed in Ahwatukee Foothills for next school year. If interested, call Liz Starks at (480) 518-2336.

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