Why did you pick this program?
I picked the SIT Peru program because it gave me the opportunity to pursue my own interests and develop my own, independent research project. This gave me the skills and foundation for my thesis and the capability to conduct solid, original research. Even while focusing in on my specific project, the program took me all over the country, which gave me the broad perspective needed to contextualize my specific area of study.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
Do it. Yes, you will miss out on things at school. Yes, you will be out of touch for a semester (or preferably a year). But going abroad forces you out of your comfort zone, to face new and challenging situations, and allows you to analyze how you approach your life. You will come out of it not only with a better perspective of the world and other cultures, but with a better perspective on how you want to live your life. Do it.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Do it. But don't JUST do it. Push yourself. You could do your ISP in Cusco, stay with your host family and keep going out with friends. Or you could push yourself and plan a kick ass research project in the Amazon or in a rural Andean village. Push your boundaries. Get out of your comfort zone. Make local connections. Go out on your own and explore. Don't hang out with only Americans. There are plenty of them waiting for you when you get home.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
My favorite story to tell? Probably about the first day of my field research during my ISP. I had hitched a ride on a ecotour boat to the native community Shintuya in the Madre de Dios region of the Amazon. After setting up my tent in the ever gracious Willy's house, he invited me to go hinting with hime the next morning. We woke up at about 3:30 a.m., crossed the river on a log, and set out into the monte. Four hours in, after a few failed shots at troops of monkeys, I put my hand on a log and got this huge shoot of pain up my arm. I look down to see a Bullet Ant scurrying up my arm, and I brushed it off frantically and call out to Willy. He runs over, takes stock of the situation, and goes off into the forest, leaving me standing alone, pain creeping up my arm and into my chest, hoping he was coming back. He reappears a few moments later with a root. He crushes it up and ties it onto my hand, and says "estará bien" (it'll be fine), turns around and keeps walking. We continued for another few hours and made it back home by sunset. Meatless, we sat down and enjoyed some hard earned chicha and arroz con huevo.
Why did you choose an island program instead of direct enrollment?
I actually did both. One semester with SIT and one semester of direct enrollment with Middlebury in Argentina. I highly recommend doing both, as direct enrollment gives you the "real daily life" experience of the country, while island programs tend to encourage more United States on United States interaction. That being said, SIT does an amazing job of empowering its students in their research and encouraging them to branch out. You get to travel and study in the field and through hands on experience, which is invaluable. If you are a motivated student who can commit yourself to push your boundaries, island programs can give you the flexibility and independence you need to take full advantage of your study abroad experience.