La Cultura de Clases: Academic Culture of Peru

On the weekends, I spend my free time exploring! This is Laguna Humantay, a lake at the top of a beautiful mountain about 3 hours from Cusco.

The academic structure of my program in Peru is pretty similar to what I am used to at Wofford, so it was not hard for me to adjust to my classes here (except for the fact that they are all taught in Spanish!) I am not attending a local university here in Cusco, so I just go to school at our SIT office. My study abroad group is only 11 people, so all of my classes are very small (reminds me of Wofford). In a typical week, I go to class for about 4 hours a day. There is a lot of reading assigned along with a few essays and some other assignments to practice my Spanish. There is an emphasis placed on reading and writing and learning the culture in its entirety, instead of only certain aspects.

I may look like a major tourist here, but as my teacher always says, “No somos turistas; somos estudiantes!” which means, “We are not tourists; we are students!”

The classes I am taking here are Spanish, Quechua, Indigenous Peoples in Motion, Research Methods and Ethics, and History of Indigenous Cultures in Peru. The emphasis of my program is on indigenous peoples and how globalization is impacting their cultures. These classes are greatly improving my Spanish abilities, of course, but are also giving me a broader perspective of a culture that I knew very little about before coming to Peru.

I am learning a lot about the local culture by living with my host family. This is bread that my host mom got me for Día de los Vivos. It is a custom here for daughters to get the bread with a baby in it, and sons get bread with a horse in it.

There are a few things here that differ from my classes at Wofford. The first is that each class is not always taught by the same person. We often have guest speakers come in to teach on a special topic such as traditional medicine or how to conduct personal interviews for research. I have enjoyed this though because it adds some variety to the classroom. I also spend less time doing homework here than I do at Wofford. I have really appreciated this though because it gives me the chance to explore the city and truly experience my host culture. My program really emphasizes experiential learning outside of the classroom which I have really enjoyed!

More experiential learning! I didn’t know that Halloween is such a big event here, but I sure found out when I went to the plaza; it was so crowded! People even dressed up their dogs.

The part of my program that is the most unique is the period of the Independent Study Project (ISP), which begins next week. This is similar to Interim at Wofford in that I have the entire month of November just to study one topic. I will be going to the indigenous community of Paru Paru, about 2 hours from Cusco, for one week to conduct my research project. I am a little nervous because I will be the only one from my group there, and there is no internet and weak phone service! However, I am excited for the opportunity to grow personally and academically through this new experience. I will be interviewing community members in order to investigate how Protestant Christianity is influencing the practice of Andean religion in indigenous communities. My ISP topic is linked to my religion minor; it is a valuable opportunity to investigate religious practices that I would not have the chance to study at Wofford.

Fun but unrelated things:

This picture doesn’t have anything to do with academics; he’s just a cute dog I saw near my school! I see so many dogs here every day.
Not only am I doing a lot of learning, but also some teaching! I taught my host mom how to make banana bread using my grandma’s recipe.
I was missing American food so I went to Chili’s in the mall here. The food from home that I miss the most are biscuits.