Why did you choose this program?  I chose this program because I wanted the most immersive Spanish-speaking experiences that IU could offer. Not only was I interested in the aspect of taking classes with Peruvian students at an esteemed university to get full language exposure and opportunities to practice, I also wanted to complete an entire year abroad to get the most out of the experience. Additionally, this program was actually less expensive to do than being at IU as the tuition paid to IU was the same and the cost of living was significantly lower.

Describe your favorite class(es) abroad.  My favorite class was my Quechua course. Quechua is an indigenous language spoken by many people throughout Peru that has a history and reality of tradition, oppression, perseverance, and beauty. Being taught Quechua in Spanish while learning among Peruvian students was a challenge that was so worth it because it gave me a lot of insight on the rich culture and history of indigenous peoples within Peru, which is a huge part of Peruvian society.

What was the housing like on your study abroad program?  Before the program began, the Peruvian university’s coordinator sent out a housing guide with a long list of the options (such as homestays, student residencies, apartments, etc.) divided by the district in Lima that they are located, with a few details about what the housing offers. The students then have the responsibility to communicate with the contacts listed for the housing to get more details and confirm plans to live there. I personally lived in a homestay with an older woman, a live-in house assistant, and two other international students. I had three meals a day provided to me, laundry done for me, and a lot of freedom. Payment was made monthly, much like a normal rent situation.

What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students?
My biggest advice would be to not shy away from making mistakes. There were many times that I felt unsure of myself, whether it be in talking with someone new or trying to figure out how to get somewhere, which could have stopped me from amazing experiences if I let my fear of messing up control me. Embrace your mistakes, recognize that they’re inevitable, and learn to laugh at yourself rather than putting yourself down or not trying.

What’s your best memory from your time abroad?  My best memory would be spending a day riding motor scooters around a small island in the Caribbean that belongs to Colombia. It was one of the most beautiful memories as I was able to see the entirety of the island, stop anywhere along the way, and experience travel the way that the locals do.

What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program?
The most surprising aspect of my program was how many international students I befriended. Going into the program, I did not realize that there would be other international students from so many places in the world. Many of my close friendships that I made were with students from throughout Europe and other parts of Latin America. I am now planning to visit them in their home countries to reunite.

Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock.
For me, my reverse culture shock was much more impactful than my culture shock. While upon arriving to Peru, I first felt lonely and had some issues with being exhausted, I adjusted somewhat quickly and didn’t think too much about going home or missing things from home. There were a few aspects of the culture that I never fully got used to, but I recognized that things were different but not wrong which kept me positive. On the other hand, coming home after being gone for 12 months was a very rough transition back. I felt very disconnected from my life, family, and friends in the United States and had a hard time explaining to them anything about my experience. Going from the everyday norm feeling like an adventure to returning to mundane life was very difficult. I hated being asked “How was Peru?” because such a general question regarding an entire year of my life felt impossible to answer yet I was asked several times a day for a while. While 6 months later, I’m still adjusting in some ways, I’ve found that time, patience, and self-care are essential.

“If I could do it over, I would…”
If I could do it over, I would try to connect better with the Peruvian students in my classes. While I had Peruvian friends that I met through a program aimed to assist the international students in adjusting, I didn’t know my classmates as well as I would have liked. In my first semester especially, I definitely felt nervous about asking the Peruvian students for help or advice in classes which could have been very helpful as I’m confident that they would have been eager to assist me.

What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad?
I now know how easy and affordable traveling can be. During my three-month summer break between the two semesters of my program, I visited four other countries extensively and did it for relatively quite cheap. Many of my well-traveled European friends assisted me with getting familiar with things like using low-budget airlines, finding cheap lodging on Hostelworld, and eating local. I now feel super confident to backpack affordably again for more future travels.

What do you wish someone had told you before you left?  I wish someone would have told me that Lima during the winter (which is about half the year) is quite grey. Throughout South America, the weather app is notoriously incorrect. If you look at the app throughout the year, at any given point, it will likely show the weather in Lima to be sunny with moderate temperatures. While the summer months were quite sunny and hot, the winter months are actually perpetually grey and chilly. They even commonly call the city “Lima la Gris” (Lima the Grey). The days on end of greyness was difficult for me because I wasn’t expecting it as I had a prior misconception that many have: It is always sunny and warm in most of South America. It was easy to access sun by going just a few hours outside of Lima, so I’d definitely recommend that students take advantage of that.

What was your greatest challenge?  The greatest challenge for me was getting used to the transportation system. While I often would try to convince myself that it was just different rather than being inherently bad or wrong, I was very impatient with what I often saw as an ineffective mess of a system. Between stand-still traffic, buses with no set stops, Ubers that would often cancel, and unofficial taxis that would constantly honk at you from the streets to get your attention, it was consistently a highly stimulating and overwhelming experience to get from place to place. This being said, I don’t think that the United States has a great public transportation system, so I now miss how accessible buses and unnecessary cars were in Peru.

What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn?
Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries you can visit. Any kind of experience you are looking to get is possible. Lima is a huge city of twelve million people with a lot of hustle and bustle, but the nature outside of the city is incredible. Between high altitude mountain hikes leading to turquoise colored water, huge sand dunes with an oasis town found in the middle, the ocean coast with very surfable waves, and the indescribable beauty of the Amazon jungle, there is always something new to explore.

How did you find scholarships for study abroad?  I wanted to apply to every scholarship I could find so I spent a substantial amount of time finding scholarships that fit for me and my program. Between scholarships through the College, in my School, and a few other general ones, I ended up receiving more than enough to cover my needs. I also spent the summer before going abroad working two jobs to save up to have extra spending money.

Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities?
The Hutton International Experience Program is very open to giving money to students doing all sorts of international experiences for just about any length of time anywhere in the world. You don’t need to be in Hutton, but if your GPA meets the eligibility, definitely apply!