Summer 2018, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in Peru for two weeks. Although two weeks does not seem like such a large amount of time, my peers and I were able to immerse ourselves in multiple cultures and even cultural scenarios, such as bargaining, or something as small as ordering food!
Before we left for the trip, we were enrolled in a course during second semester where we essentially prepared for the study abroad. In the class we learned of the economic benefits and significance of tourism in Peru, the culture and diversity of the population, and even read texts about the ins and outs of Peruvian culture. The course made me especially excited for the trip because it gave me a sense of readiness as well as an ability to bond with my fellow classmates who I was going to have to spend some time with after all. However, there were still many doubts I had before we took flight, I barely speak any Spanish, how will I get around on my free time? How will I buy things? How will I last on this flight? Did I pack enough? Did I pack too much? Although those nervous questions filled my every thought, my excitement and eagerness surely surpassed my worry.
What I was most excited for on this trip was the multiple cultures and people we were to meet. Being an International Studies major, my true passion was essentially people. How they lived there every day and how I could put myself in the shoes of others and fight that sense of cognitive dissonance that I might feel when put in a different situation. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable was what made this trip the greatest I have been on so far. I was able to put myself in situations I would never imagine, as small as ordering a meal in a language I barely spoke, hiking in the Andes and sitting beside a waterfall. We were also exposed to the beauties of different heritages through food, music, and art. From hearing the folklore tale of a mother telling her son to “Shut up and eat” or “Comocaya”, to cooking alongside an expert chef who taught us the histories behind gastro-economics, I was able to learn how the food industry affected tourism heavily and how women played a strong role in Peruvian History. From dancing with members of the famous Ballumbrosio household, to an attempt of shouting Spanish into a microphone at the Don Porfirio, I was able to learn of the beauty of Afro Peruvian Music and the movements behind it.
This two-week-long journey was one I will surely never forget. I learned the many ways heritage could be defined and learned more about myself as well. I became more open to trying new things that would once make me nervous and even learned my way around Lima (or at least the Mira Flores area). This was truly an extremely memorable experience and one that I was only able to experience thanks to OVPDEMA, being a GROUPS and 21st Century Scholar, and of course a student at Indiana University. It was truly a [hopefully not only once] once in a lifetime experience.