Alumni Spotlight: Kemin Fena


Kemin is originally from Duluth, Minnesota. She is majoring in biomedical engineering and pursing an international Spanish minor at Michigan Technological University. Although she isn't much of a dancer, she can't resist a good salsa beat.

Why did you pick this program?

Kemin: I chose to study Spanish language and culture in Lima, Peru to take courses towards my international Spanish minor. I have always been fascinated by learning about other cultures, and there isn't better way to learn both language and culture than to live in and immerse oneself in that culture!

ISA also offers service learning programs, so I was able to extend my time in Peru and volunteer in a local children's hospital. I knew that volunteering would be a great way to get involved in the community and interact with local Peruvians.

What do you wish someone had told you before you went abroad?

Two months may seem like a long time, but it flies by! Although excursions cost a bit more money, study abroad is the trip of a life time and you don't want to be the one person left behind at home.

I wish that I had been encouraged to sign up for every excursion and activity offered, because every experience that I was able to participate in was incredible!

What is the most important thing you learned abroad?

Kemin: One of the courses I took at la Universidad del Pacifico was called the "Socioeconomic and Political Reality of Peru". We learned about the economic poverty that many Peruvian families face and how limited their opportunities are to improve their socioeconomic status.

After volunteering in El Hospital del Niños, I saw first hand how limited resources are in a public hospital. I met Peruvian children and their families who had very little money or belongings, and yet they were intelligent, hard working, and happy.

Despite having so little, they were extremely generous and hopeful for a bright future. Working with these wonderful people, I realized how fortunate I am to have so many opportunities, and I am much more thankful for these opportunities after seeing what it is like to live without them.

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

Kemin: Do it! It is a life-changing experience that you will never regret. I had such a wonderful time that I want to go again.

What was hardest part about going abroad?

Kemin: The hardest part of going abroad was coming back. Saying goodbye to my host family and new friends was the saddest farewell I've ever had by far. I had such a wonderful time in Peru that I wasn't ready for my trip to be over after only two months.

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

Kemin: My favorite part of study abroad was the wonderful people I met, especially the friendships I made with other students in my program. The last weekend of my two month stay, a group of five of my friends and myself rented a bungalow on the beach in norther Peru for the weekend. It was a perfect way to end a memorable experience, enjoying the last few days in the company of the friends I had made.

What made this experience unique and special?

Kemin: My host family was the best! They were so welcoming and generous, I felt like part of the family on my very first day. They are the main reason my Spanish improved, because they encouraged me to practice even when I was afraid to mess up and corrected me when I did.

My Mama taught me to cook my favorite Peruvian dishes, and we always had the best conversations over her delicious home-cooked meals!

Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.

Kemin: Growing up in northern Minnesota and going to college in the upper peninsula of Michigan, I have grown up with long winters, cold weather, and lots of snow. Even though it was winter in the southern hemisphere, the weather was much warmer, and there was no snow in sight. I got to try surfing in the ocean, sand boarding in the desert, explore the Amazon Rain Forrest, and climb Machu Picchu!

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

Kemin: Challenge yourself to be as open-minded as possible. The best way to learn another language and learn about the culture is to make friends with locals, interact with them, and act like them.

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions, future path?

Kemin: Now that I have experienced living in another country, I have an insatiable appetite for traveling! Whenever someone asks me about the next place I would like to visit, I say the entire world! Wherever the next opportunity takes me.

What is the best advice you received before your study abroad?

Kemin: Do a little research about the country before you get there. Even reading the Wikipedia page about your host country on the flight there is a great thing to do.

One of the worst ways to represent the USA is to meet locals who know more about American politics than you do, not knowing the name of their president, or whether the country is even democratic!