Alumni Spotlight: Ansku Ikonen


Ansku Ikonen is currently completing a Master's Degree in International Development at the University of Helsinki in Finland. She loves to travel around the world and you're most likely find her somewhere exploring the globe.

Why did you pick this program?

After finishing my Bachelor´s Degree in International Development I felt I really needed a break and wanted to spend time seeing more of the world. I´m really passionate about NGO work, specifically NGOs that work with children, so I was looking for something that aligned with this in Peru. When I came across Light and Leadership´s page I knew it would be a perfect fit. I wanted to work with LLI because of their committed work with the community and people of Huaycan; the program seemed very well organized and the community in which they work matched the experience I was looking for.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

Do it! It´s such a life changing experience. I have learned so much about the world and about myself. Through this experience I have gained so much courage and made life-long friends. I truly encourage everyone to take that step and go out there to see the world. It is so worth it.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be open minded, get to know local people, and enjoy the Peruvian life. Also explore as much as you can, Peru is an incredibly beautiful country. This program is also a great opportunity to work on your Spanish skills - Peruvians love to talk a lot!

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

I have so many great memories from my time abroad, funny moments happen often when you are living with a group of people. In the community where we worked the street dogs were a constant source of entertainment among volunteers (especially those who were scared of dogs). The language barrier is another. The kids I worked with got a good laugh out of my Spanish skills, giggling every time I said something in Spanish that meant something different than I intended.

What made this experience unique and special?

People. Especially everyone we worked with in Huaycan. It was so incredible to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of kids, teens, and women that participate in the LLI programs. Also, to live in the community was a unique experience in itself, as it was very different from anything I had experienced before. Peru is such diverse country. You can go from the coast into the desert and then up to the mountains, it has every imaginable landscape. The weather is close to perfect wherever you go and the people are beyond helpful. And the food! It is simply amazing.