Joe and a friend exploring the beautiful landscapes of Peru.
Overseas Study Program
Majors: Spanish Linguistics
Term abroad: Academic Year 2014-2015
Why did you choose this program? As a Spanish major I wanted a more immersive and independent program in a Spanish speaking country to improve my lingual proficiency as much as possible. With this goal in mind Lima, Peru seemed the perfect location. Lima is a city of about 8-10 million people with a very rich cultural heritage and Peru offers an incredible degree of both ecological and social diversity. From the Cordillera of the Andes mountains to the coastal desert cities and pre-Colombian ruins in the north to the Amazonian rainforest, there is always something new to experience in Peru.
Describe your favorite classes abroad. I'd have to say that my favorite classes abroad were Quechua and Social Linguistics. Quechua is the indigenous language spoken throughout Peru and much of South America in the time of the Incan Empire and is still used today throughout the entire Andean region. In this class we learned basic Quechua vocabulary and grammar as well as cultural and historical information about the areas in Peru that still use Quechua. In my Social Linguistics class we learned about linguistic variation in Spanish and English and studied linguistic theory explaining why these variations develop and who typically uses them. We also examined the roles of social and economic class, gender, and race in language and how these factors affect the way people talk. For one project I interviewed my host father in Peru about his experiences with racism and racial slurs both in Peru and the United States to see how he talked about race and how others approach the topic of race from his perspective in his home country and mine.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? I stayed with a Peruvian host family in Miraflores, the commercial and touristic capital of Lima. Miraflores is a metropolitan district with modern buildings and beautifully manicured parks, and is located right on the coast with many beaches popular among surfers. My family was very welcoming and showed me around the city and how to navigate the hectic bus systems to get to the PUCP for my classes, and we would often stay up in the living room after dinner to talk or watch a fútbol game.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Make the most of your time abroad, it will go by quickly. Don't be afraid to make the first move and go up and talk with strangers/ other students in the first couple of weeks. Make full use of the university or institute you are studying in and take advantage of unique opportunities and courses that they may provide. Take the time to visit local museums and get to know the city you will be living in. Basically my advice is to be aware of the fact that your time is limited and to fully appreciate the opportunities for learning, creating friendships, and exploring new regions and cultures afforded to you through study abroad.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? It's impossible to choose just one memory from an entire year of experiences, but some of my favorite moments include going to the local market with a couple of friends for ceviche and going out dancing in clubs with a view of the ocean, joking with taxi drivers about the new mayor, and getting directions from the most interesting little old lady with a coca leaf placed on her forehead while hiking through the Andes with my friend from home. Whichever program you choose you will have the chance to fill your time abroad with unique memories to hang on to.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? My biggest surprise about the program is how large of a group of international students there is each semester in Lima. All of the international students are together for a couple of orientation programs and pre-registration days on campus and my first semester there were almost 300 exchange students in the PUCP from all over the world. I was expecting to meet only Peruvians and maybe a few other Americans, but ended up getting a much more integrated international experience through fellow students from widely varying ethnic, cultural, and geographical backgrounds.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. I didn't experience much of a culture shock arriving in Lima, at least not right away. I was just too excited about everything from the brightly colored buildings to the first stand I saw in the street selling fruit. Rather than missing home when confronted with all of the differences between Lima and Indiana, I was excited at the opportunity to get to know this new and intriguing city. I was also thrilled to be able to walk through the streets and only hear Spanish, as this was my first time in a country where English is not the most commonly spoken language. I did miss home; my family, my friends, my bicycle... but I was more caught up in finally being in South America than I was sad about being away from home. I had a harder time with reverse culture shock. When my return flight finally came around and I had just sad goodbye to all of my friends in Lima, I had no idea how to feel about finally coming back to Indiana. When I did get back I remember feeling odd walking through down town South Bend at 10:00 PM, with literally one other person out on the street after being in a city of close to 10 million people. Everything seemed almost foreign to me. It was strange to suddenly switch back to only speaking English. The first few times I went into a restaurant and ordered food in the US after getting back I would start speaking in Spanish and then remember that I had to use English. It was definitely frustrating at first not being able to use my Spanish as much and being away from everyone I'd met abroad, but after having a few months to re-adjust and starting to volunteer teaching Spanish and otherwise trying to get involved in the community and keep up my Spanish abilities, it's not so bad. It was definitely harder to leave Peru than to go there.
“If I could do it over, I would…” If I could do it over, I would learn some more recipes to prepare Peruvian dishes from my host family. My host was a great cook and I miss Peruvian cuisine a lot.
Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” Through my experience abroad I gained not only a glimpse of Peruvian culture and life, but it gave me the chance to take a step back and look at my own culture from a new perspective. I didn't know how much I would learn about my own country and our influences in the international community before going abroad. Bloomington's campus has a lot to offer, but the kind of cultural perspective offered through study abroad is irreplaceable and definitely worth doing a program.
What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn? Peruvians are very proud of their food. If you run into a Peruvian anywhere in the world and tell them you lived in Lima, they will ask you about the ceviche. Also Peru and Chile both insist that they invented Pisco, a local liquor made from grapes.
How did you find scholarships for study abroad? Through the Hutton International Experiences Program (HIEP).
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? I didn't pursue any scholarships other than my regular academic scholarship and the HIEP grant, but I would recommend applying to any scholarship for which you are eligible.