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ISA in Lima, Peru
Alexa Anders studied abroad with ISA in Lima, Peru. She is originally from Rochester, Minnesota, and currently studies at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. She will graduate in the spring of 2013 with a double major in exercise science and Spanish. She enjoys traveling, being active outside and trying new things.
When: Fall 2011
Highlights: Choosing a highlight is very difficult because everything contributed to the overall amazing experience. The highlight for studying abroad would be how much my spanish improved. I chose this program to be around Spanish as much as possible, and though it was a little intimidating at first I know it helped me learn Spanish so much faster and really helped me to gain confidence and independence. All of my classes were in Spanish and the campus was beautiful; I feel proud to have studied at La Catolica.
A highlight of the overall experience would be the ISA excursions to so many incredible places throughout the country. From the Amazon jungle to Machu Picchu to sandboarding on huge sand dunes, there is no shortage of priceless moments. And, of course, I couldn't have wished for a better group of people to experience it all with!
Morning: Normally I would wake up around 8am and begin class around 9am. Classes in Lima were less frequent but longer in duration. I had class Monday through Thursday and each was 2-3 hours long. For breakfast I ate fresh bread rolls with jelly or ham and cream cheese. Avocado, fresh fruit and tea were also common breakfast foods. The bus stop was about 2 blocks from my house and serviced many buses going to many different places.
What I rode to school is called a combi, which is actually a 12 passenger van modified with school-bus seats inside. They are painted with a route number and street names to indicate their route as well as a "cobrador" who is in charge of the van door and collecting passenger fare. After about a 15minute ride I would yell "Catolica baja!" to the cobrador letting them know to stop and let me off at my university - Pontifica Universidad Catolica del Peru - because there are no automatic stops. I would then show my student ID to the guards at one of the two gates to enter campus.
Afternoon: All my classes were in the mornings so I had afternoons open. After class I would visit the ISA office right on campus to see if any other ISA students or Peruvian friends that attended La Catolica (nickname for our university) were there. We would go to lunch together at one of the cafeterias on campus where there was always a variety of plates to choose from, and it always seemed to be a large portion of food for a very cheap price.
There was also a shopping center a few blocks from campus that we would walk to for fun or pick up items we needed. ISA was very good about informing us of cultural events or activities going on around Lima as well as how to get there. If my friends were busy or I wanted a more calm afternoon I would take the combi back home and eat a lunch prepared by my host-grandma who cooked our meals. We would chat and watch TV - and home-made meals are definitely the best!
Evening: Most evenings I would eat with my host family around 8 or 9pm. We would talk a lot which really helped improve my spanish. Then, if I didn't have an ISA planned event such as salsa lessons or visiting a historical landmark, we would often organize activities as a group to explore a new area of Lima.
Also, very popular on Thursday-Saturday nights was going out to discotecas and dancing the night away until the early hours of the morning. Sometimes we would even go out for breakfast before going home. To get around we would usually meet at a location central to our houses then take taxis together. At the beginning of my trip there we had a lot more group activities planned by ISA, but as time passed and we made friends with Peruvians there were less ISA activities and we were going out with friends just as we would at home.
GO: Why did you decide to study abroad with ISA in Lima, Peru?
Michelle: I decided to study abroad with ISA because they were well organized and offered a wide variety of opportunities and locations to study. I chose Lima because Peru is not a country that most people think about going to in order to study. I knew that Peruvians spoke one of the most pure forms of Spanish, second to Colombia. I thought it would be a perfect place to learn about an amazing prehistorical culture as well as learning about their modern culture that's elements are slowly diffusing into our own. ISA Lima offered 3 types of experiences in different universities as well as great excursions.
GO: What made studying in Peru a unique and special experience?
Michelle: The people I met really made this experience special for me. I made great friends and learned a lot about the culture by having an insiders point of view. Being able to integrate into the society by speaking with my host family about politics, religion, and the future really allowed me to understand what it would be like to grow up in a different country. I was also able to become more fluent in Spanish and learn more about the society in a way that you could never learn in a classroom.
GO: How did this experience impact your academic development?
Michelle: This trip impacted my future in many ways. Since studying abroad in Peru, I have gone back to work on an archaeological site with the university there. Because I had experience living in Lima, knew the university as well as the history, language, and culture of the country, I was able to help lead my fellow students and give them advice during our stay.
Once I complete my undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and Spanish, I am going to go back to Peru to work at the same archaeological site, work in the laboratory of the school in which I studied, as well as possibly work with international students who come to the university. Although I do not know exactly what I will be doing with my future long term, I know that I now have family in Peru. It was an experience that I would repeat a thousand times over and I would not trade it for anything in the world.
GO: Why did you decide to study abroad with ISA in Lima, Peru?
Zachary: I actually was lucky enough to study abroad a couple times while a student at Emmanuel College in Boston. I spent time in Mexico, Spain and Peru. Of those, it was my Academic Year program with ISA in Lima, Peru that impacted me the most. I knew I wanted to be immersed in a Spanish-speaking country that's somewhat off-the-beaten path.
I remember saying to my Study Abroad Advisor when we were picking the right program, "Hey, with all these programs in Spain and Latin America, these guys must really know what they're doing."
GO: What made your study abroad experience unique and special?
Zachary: I was lucky enough study in Lima for two semesters. By the time my second semester rolled around, I was speaking Spanish like a Peruvian, comfortable navigating my way through Lima by way of their decidedly South American public transportation system of "micros" and "combis,"and spending my free time with a great group of Peruvian friends that I keep in touch with to this day. Perhaps it is for this reason that I get excited when talking to Year students to this day.
My academic experience as a foreign student enrolled directly in courses with local students at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) was decidedly unique. Classes here were challenging (and in Spanish), but the class I remember most in Latin. I'd never studied Latin before, and it interesting learning the language with speakers of Spanish.
My wonderful Resident Director Michelle McRaney de Winder went out of her way to find a Latin tutor to help me out. Meanwhile, my roommate Mike was studying Quechua language - and Michelle was able to find a tutor for him as well. ISA Resident Directors are a special bunch, and every RD I've met does a fantastic job integrating ISA students into the local culture.
In addition to Peru, I spent time studying in Mexico and Madrid as well. All were unforgettable experiences, but I was able to compare apples to apples and ISA comes out om top. ISA believes that study abroad students should be as integrated into the host culture as much as possible, a philosophy I share. This integration can happen in the classroom, ISA housing (homestays and student dormitories), on-campus student organizations, socially and volunteer and internship placements.
GO: How has this experience impacted your future?
Zachary: It's almost a cliche to say that students come back from study abroad more mature, and for me it was no exception. Back in Boston, I immediately sought out my study abroad office. I didn't know it at the time, but I had made an unconscious decision to pursue a career in international education.
Emmanuel requires most majors to have an internship their senior year, and mine was (naturally) in the study abroad office. That year, I met representatives from ISA and other organizations on campus at Emanuel. One thing led to another and the rest was history!
GO: Now that you work for ISA, what do you do for them?
Zachary: At ISA, I work mainly in New England visiting campuses to talk about ISA programs as a University Relations Representative. I'm also part of ISA's Communications Team as a Social Media Coordinator and am in charge of social media at ISA. I joined ISA back in 2009 and am loving my third year "on the road" repping ISA at study abroad fairs across New England.
ISA distinguishes itself as a study abroad provider by its commitment to each individual student. ISA services are available to students, parents, faculty and advisers throughout the study abroad process. In addition to the ISA team in the U.S., ISA offers study abroad students constant support through resident directors available in study abroad locations globally.
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