In the summer of 2018, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Peru for two weeks. Before landing in Lima, I was extremely worried about experiencing culture shock while traveling to this new country in South America. This being my first trip outside of the United States, I was extremely nervous and full of wonder. However, worry and nervousness soon turned into excitement and my eagerness to see the country expanded exponentially.
Although my trip only lasted two weeks, I had a lot of time to prepare for the experience. A group of 15 students, including myself, spent 2 hours each Friday learning about the different cultures within Peru. Taking classes before the trip allowed our group to spend more time learning about different traditions through workshops. A couple of the workshops we were a part of included how to play pan pipes, how to perform traditional agricultural rituals, and how to use screen presses to design posters. These workshops allowed me to learn more about how heritage and the environment effect the way that people live. It also showed me that while many people in the United States may take basic things, like plants and mud, for granted, the people of Peru use them for multiple survival purposes. For example, during one of the ten workshops showed us how Amazonian women used plants as a way to dye fabric and mud as a way to change the color of the dye.
I mostly wanted to be a part of this trip to expand my knowledge of other cultures. Being a Human Resource Management major, it is important to understand and appreciate the differences in cultures. A big cultural difference that is common in the workplace is that some work practices may be normal in one country but inappropriate in another. While in Peru I learned that being on time is not a big deal to a lot of people while in the United States being late can result in termination.
Overall, I believe that my perspective on the world has changed throughout my time in Peru. Being Caucasian and unable to speak Spanish in a country where that is uncommon was very eye opening. This trip definitely allowed me to become more empathetic to those who may not always feel like they belong. Additionally, it also showed me that the simple things that I may take for granted at home are considered luxuries in other places. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to study abroad during my college. However, OVPDEMA, 21st Century Scholars, and Indiana University made this once-in-a-lifetime experience possible.