These past five weeks have changed me for the better. I feel stronger, more mature, and ready for anything. My professional and academic goals have actually gotten less focused because I realized that having a career is not the only purpose of life. Traveling just for a little made me just want to travel more, so I now want to save up and set aside time to travel before I am tied down by a family or a career.
I have often felt fairly confident and capable, but this experience tore this perception down, and then built it back up. When I signed up to go to Peru, I thought, “I can totally do this, this’ll be a walk in the park.” But when I actually was on my way to the airport I got pretty nervous because I didn’t know anyone on the trip, I was going to be living alone with a family that spoke no English in a foreign country, and I had no idea what to expect. But I just pushed through and kept a positive attitude the entire time, and I not only made it through, but also had a fantastic time doing it. I now know how much more capable and independent I am because of it.
My favorite experience by far was the sea lion encounter. On our only free day in Lima, a group of about nine of us signed up to “swim with sea lions”. After an hour and a half long boat ride, we saw an island covered with over 8,000 sea lions. We then climbed into some wetsuits and swam right up to them. I felt like I was in an episode of Planet Earth with hundreds of sea lions swimming all around me and even brushing my legs. I don’t know if I will ever have the chance to experience something like that again.
My advice to people considering studying abroad would be to pick something crazier than you think you can handle. If you have the right attitude, you will accomplish things you never though you could have, and you will love yourself for doing so.
I really want to co-op abroad to experience working in a different country, and I am hoping to get the chance in either Spain or Italy. But I’m not dead-set on those places, so we’ll see where I end up.
Five weeks wasn’t quite long enough to go through all the stages of culture shock, but it was the longest I had ever been outside of the United States. There were many things that I noticed were very different, but it took about two weeks to really notice those differences.
First of all, Peru has a very service based culture, meaning people rarely do things for themselves, and help each other often. At fast food places, people would never take their trays to the trash can, which would make me feel so guilty, but it was normal. Also whenever my host mom or housekeeper would make me a meal, they would serve it to me and never let me clear my own dishes. America has a very self-sufficient, independent culture, and I think we could learn something from more connected cultures like this.
I also noticed that every single person loves to dance and is great at it. When we spent a week at the high school, some of the students would try and teach us salsa, and they were all fantastic, even though they would deny it. In America some people can dance, but many, especially boys, don’t like dancing because they feel dumb. I love to dance, so I really enjoyed getting to dance with the locals.
When I thought about what I missed most from the US, it was really the food. I loved the Peruvian food, but I started missing my comfort food, especially peanut butter. I also missed cereal, pizza, and water. I say water because we were served juice with every meal, and I missed drinking my plain old water. With that said, I’m going to miss jugos, ají, lúcuma, and all of the avocado.
I’m excited to go home and see my family and friends, but I will forever be grateful for this amazing experience to live and experience a different culture.
It is a bit ironic, because my typical days are now over, but I did grow to love my routine for the last 4 weeks.
Every weekday, I had class at El Sol from 9am-1pm so I would wake up and eat a fried egg, a piece of bread, coffee, and a papaya jugo, prepared for me by the housekeeper, Dominga. Then I would walk the two blocks to school and start my day.
In El Sol, we reviewed grammar in the morning, then had an hour of conversation class, then an hour of culture class. I loved my teachers there and learned more Spanish than I ever have.
After El Sol, our dialogue group always had another school to go to. For one week we went to a middle/high school and hung out with the students and got to know them a little better. It was also a great way for us to practice our Spanish and for them to practice their English.
Then for two weeks, our group went to a local university and took Peruvian culture classes and also talked to and spent time with the students there.
After our long day of school was done, we would usually get back around 6 or 7, and I would usually go with a group to get some food. Often I ended up back at La Lucha, a Peruvian sandwich shop with some of the best sandwiches I have ever had.
Then it would be home to my host family, catch up on a little homework, then get ready to do it all over again the next day.
I attend my Politcal Science classes for my study abroad at the London School of Economics and Political Science Campus. The campus is only about 3 blocks away from my student residence, so I often walk to my classes. As for transportation in the City of London, I sometimes use the public subway system, known as the Tube, and the public city buses, famously described as the big red double-decker London buses. I personally prefer the tube over the buses as the railways here are very fast and the buses seem to always get caught in the city’s street traffic. There are also the infamous London black taxicabs; however they are fairly expensive so I try to steerclear of using them as much as possible. Some pros of the city’s public transport is that the locomotives and buses are relatively new and environmentally friendly (as London introduced “greener” buses to reduce air pollution). Also, the public transportion, in terms of London trains, are very fast in comparison to American trains. A significant con for the city’s public transport is that rush hour in the mornings and evenings are severely worse on the trains and buses compared to the US. Everytime I get out my internship at 5 p.m. and catch the Tube, the train is extremely packed and the stations are very busy. Overall, I rather like the transportation in London and will continue to rely on it for the remainder of my study abroad experience.
Thankfully our program includes many opportunities to meet and talk to the people who live here in Peru. We went to a high school every day for a week and I learned all about being a teenager here in Lima. Most of them do the same activities as American teenagers, like going to the mall and dance parties, but they are much better dancers than we are. Our dialogue group has also been going to a local university, UNIFE, for the past week and a half so we get to learn about life here from people our age. Their university program is also 5 years, and all of the students we are spending time with are studying translation to become interpreters. So they are always excited to practice their English with us. And they give us good recommendations for salsa clubs, which also important to experience the local culture.
I have purchased various souvenirs and gifts for friends and family, and I am spending a little bit more than I had thought I would, but hey, I’m on vacation. The currency here is Soles, and the ratio is 3:1 soles to US dollars, which is good for me. My favorite purchase is an awesome pair of shoes with the typical vibrant colors here in Peru, and they are very comfortable and only cost 15 US dollars! I’m excited to debut them in Boston. I’m waiting to buy my alpaca gear until I get to Cusco, because I heard they make the best stuff, so we’ll see what I end up getting there!
The focus of this dialogue is Spanish language, so using and understanding the language is a big part of this trip.
My Spanish had improved exponentially since I’ve been here because we have 4 hours of Spanish class a day, and then we usually practice almost all day long. Also my host mother does not speak any English, so it’s good to help me practice.
There are some cultural differences I have noticed with the Spanish here and the Spanish that I was taught in high school. First of all “adios” means goodbye forever, so people here never say it because it seems dismal. Instead everyone says “ciao”. I was also taught that the word for “boyfriend” is “novio”, but it turns out that that actually means fiance here, so that for some very awkward conversations between some of my friends and their host families.
With that said, I have gotten around pretty well and I have been able to communicate with almost everyone I meet. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to improve my Spanish this quickly, and in a fun way.
My favorite landmark in Lima is El Malecon, which is the beachfront walking path dotted with parks filled with various statues and art installations. I run along this path three or four times a week before school, so part of the reason I like it so much is because I am around it so often. But it offers gorgeous sweeping views of the ocean below the cliffs and the colorful art gives it a distinct Latin America feel. It is also buzzing with activity every morning with runners, bikers, or people just going to work. I feel like the general feeling of Miraflores is encapsulated in this beach front park.
Our group has been to almost every museum in the country by now, but my favorite is a toss up between the Gold Museum and the Museum of Anthropology. The Gold museum has Francisco Pizarro’s actual sword as well as 4 mummies from the Mochica civilization and countless gold artifacts. The Museum of Anthropology has a more well-rounded collection of Indian artifacts, as well as an impressive collection of Mochica skulls that had undergone some sort of change. As a biology major, I was fascinated by skulls with holes tapped into them then covered with gold or silver plating, or skulls that had been shaped since birth to be conical or flat to fit the latest fashion trends of the day. Each of these museums has so many artifacts to offer.
My favorite excursion, though, was dune buggying in the desert in Ica. We rode in buggies that flew up and down the dunes at insane speeds, then we got to sandboard down a few of the dunes. It was a gorgeous desert, and we enjoyed it in the best way possible.
The transportation here in Lima has been an experience for sure. I only live two blocks from school, so that is never an issue. Some other people on this dialogue live thirty minutes away on foot, so I’m lucky to live where I do.
The traffic here is absolutely insane. When I moved from California to Boston, I thought the drivers there were crazy, but here Lima they are much worse. It is almost like there are no rules and people honk here more than they do in Boston. But since I’m able to walk almost everywhere, I don’t mind. But despite the bold behavior by the drivers, I am yet to see an accident.
There is also no subway system here because of the frequent earthquakes. Lima is on the “Ring of Fire”, so earthquakes are very common here, and a subway system has a potential to become very dangerous in an earthquake situation.
Because there is no subway system, the buses are very crowded, but they seem to work well. Lima is a huge city, but the people here have definitely learned how to get where they need to be.
Financing study abroad is a key concern among many of our students. For questions on the cost of study abroad, as always, please consult the Finances Tab on the OISP Website, the Pricing and Billing Information Sheet, the Cost section on program pages, Northeastern Financial Services (your Financial Aid Advisor), and contact OISP with any further questions!
Are there scholarships available?? Yes! There are many, many National Scholarships available for students going abroad – we link to many of these in the Finances Tab of the OISP website.
For Fall 2014 Students, OISP is pleased to offer several Study Abroad Scholarships. We have College-Specific Scholarships for students in the COS, CAMD, and CSSH. Deadline is April 1, 2014. For more information, click here.
The Exchange Programs Scholarship for students applying to one of the institutions Northeastern has an exchange agreement with is also open for Fall 2014. Click here for more information. Deadline is March 1, 2014.