Before leaving for Peru, I was worried about being with only 10 other students for an entire semester, but having such a small group has actually been so good! Because we’re such a small group, it has been easy to become friends with everyone; it’s like we’re a little family now. I must admit though, sometimes during our week-long trips to other cities throughout Peru, I would get frustrated constantly being with everyone–most of them are so different from me. However, spending a little time alone or FaceTiming my friends from Wofford always relieves that stress. I know I will miss them when the semester ends; they all go to universities far from me.
Connecting with locals is a little bit more challenging since I’m not obligated to spend most of my time with them like I do with the other students in my group. Living with a Peruvian family has been helpful in meeting other local– I spend a lot of time with my host mom and have met most of her siblings as well. One of her sisters is our neighbor, and one of her brothers lives on the other side of her house. They are a very close-knit family, and all of them are so sweet and welcoming to me.
Another way I have been trying to immerse myself in the community of Cuzco is by attending a local church– Iglesia Fuente de Gracia. Although the church has five missionary families from the United States, there are also many Peruvians who attend. There is one family who moved here from a town in Georgia that is only about thirty minutes from my home! Although they are not Peruvian by blood, they have lived here for three years now, so I would consider them more or less locals now, haha! I went to their house for dinner a couple of weeks ago, which was a lot of fun. Through my church, I also made a good friend from Pennsylvania who is also studying abroad here at a different school.
At the beginning of the semester, I was taking dance classes at a dance school here in Cuzco with some friends from my program. This was a fun way to meet some more locals! A lot of the dance instructors are young 20-somethings, so it was easy to connect with them. One night, three of them went with my group of friends to karaoke–it was such a fun time!
I spent the last week in a small Quechua community of about 500 people to do my research for my independent study project. I was very nervous about being alone with barely any phone signal, but it turned out to be a great experience! I stayed there with another family who was incredibly kind and helpful. I got to talk with several community members about the religious beliefs there. Being without my friends from my school was challenging, but it was a great opportunity to meet indigenous people that I never could have without this program. This week helped me improve my Spanish a lot too since I wasn’t with anyone who spoke English. Also, the views there were incredible! The only part I won’t miss is how cold it was and how many potatoes I had to eat; because it’s so high in altitude, potatoes are one of the only things that are able to grow there.