Studying abroad in Peru on a service learning trip was a dream come true for me! I was able to improve my Spanish, immerse myself in Peruvian culture and volunteer at three amazing non-governmental organizations. I formed bonds of a life time with people I may have never crossed paths with. My experiences abroad in Peru were one of a kind. It was an opportunity for me to live outside of my comfort zone, while learning about the history, values and traditions of Peruvian culture.
Studying abroad has been on my bucket list since I was an undergraduate. Between my protective family and assumptions that a trip abroad would be too expensive, I never applied. Finally, in my first year of graduate school I took a leap of faith and everything lined up perfectly! My family was extremely excited to hear that I was going abroad to do what I love the most, which is giving back to the community. In regards to funding, I was able to get the Myers Family Scholarship and additional aid that covered all of my expenses. I am extremely grateful for the Myers Family Scholarship and the additional aid I received.
As I reminisce on my days in Peru, I am thankful for all of the heartfelt and comical moments. Running up the hills of Coya and struggling to catch my breath, while being cheered on by the kids that were always miles ahead of our entire group. Arriving to the afterschool program and being greeted with big smiles and hugs. Spending time reading with the children, teaching them how to do the “Macarena” dance, exchanging fun facts about our cultures and my favorite, singing and dancing to Reggaeton music, alongside the students. These moments are truly irreplaceable.
Beyond all the heartfelt and comical moments, I can never forget the most rewarding moments. The deconstruction and reconstruction of the Comedores in Senor de Huanca was physically taxing but well worth it. We were able to help construct a stable building for the soup kitchen, that will prevent malnourishment in the community. The women that work in the Comedores “mamis” were some of the most resilient women I’ve ever met. They let us into their space and explained their dedication to not only feeding families in the community, but facilitating programs that empower women and children. As a result of these special moments, I will never forget my time volunteering at Abrepuertas, Corazon De Dahlia and the Comedores in Senor de Huanca. My experiences with the directors, teachers, volunteers and students of these organizations was extremely humbling.
My trip abroad would not have been complete if it were not for all the tasty meals. I can still smell the wonderful aroma of the bakeries around the city and I miss the fresh watermelon and custard apples sold in the local markets. One day I will return to Peru to have my new favorite meal “Lomo Saltado” (beef stir fry).
I truly believe every student should have the chance to study abroad. Being abroad allows you to immerse yourself in a different culture, live on the edge, learn a new language and form valuable friendships. Everyday will not be easy, but you learn the most about yourself in those difficult moments. Seize the opportunity to study abroad and create memories that will last a lifetime!
Arlene Arisme, a graduate Social Work student, who studied abroad in Cusco, Peru in summer 2016