This summer I participated in Binghamton’s Peru: Service Learning in Cusco program for three weeks.
I chose this program because I was really looking for a study abroad program that also had a volunteering component so this was perfect. I also had the chance to practice my Spanish in a real world setting instead of in a classroom environment. Beforehand, I could not have been more excited to start the program because I love to travel and experience new things and this program lived up to all of my expectations.
The only difference was that I did not expect the city of Cusco to be nearly as modernized as it was. I was forced out of my comfort zone when I had to speak Spanish most of the time despite my speaking skills being limited. Although this was frustrating at times it made me proud of myself after the fact and I knew I had learned and grown so much. This doubled as my biggest challenge and reward throughout the time I spent in Peru.
I also really enjoyed working at the different service sites while we were there and being able to help the people we worked with – and just being immersed in a completely different culture. Having the opportunity to try different traditional foods every day was intimidating but also so exciting. Alpaca, is actually so delicious and definitely recommended!
The program takes place for three weeks in June which just so happens to be the month of Cusco, so there are festivals and parades happening most days of the weeks, which gives students the opportunity to see more of the Peruvian culture and how they celebrate and show tribute to the gods of their history. Being able to witness the traditional song and dance was also absolutely amazing. Being in the two-hour intensive Spanish classes every morning only helped enhance an amazing experience and make adjusting much easier.
Participating in this program helped me advance my academic and professional goals. I am a linguistics and political science major with a concentration in international relations and I have aspirations of going to law school to focus on international law. This program allowed me to gain international experience and interacting with people from another country outside of just travel and tourism. Overall, I would recommend studying abroad to anyone and everyone considering it because the experiences you gain are really incomparable to anything else.
Not only that, but you just grow as a person overall.
Raven Pitarra, a Binghamton University undergraduate student studying Linguistics and Political Science, who studied abroad in Cusco, Peru in summer 2016