Alumni Spotlight: Kiley Erlandson

Kiley is from Mequon, Wisconsin and is a junior at Indiana University. She is double majoring in Non-Profit Management and Spanish, with a minor in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management. Kiley enjoys traveling, running, and practicing yoga in her free time.

What is the most important thing you learned abroad?


Kiley: I learned many important things abroad. But something Pacific Discovery was really passionate about that influenced me too was to try to minimize my environmental impact while traveling and in everyday life.

I can honestly say I’ve used less than ten plastic water bottles since my Peru trip a year ago. Our leader taught us to carry around whatever plastic we used until we could find a place that actually looked like they would recycle it.

Most of the time, we’d see people burning their plastic on the side of the road. Which is dangerous for everyone’s health and bad for the environment. Everyone on my trip had water bottles with filters, which can be costly but are so worth it. I distinctly remember filling my water bottle with water from a spigot on the side of a mountain while white water rafting on the Apurimac river in Peru. And I’m still alive, so they definitely work!

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

Kiley: One of my favorite stories to tell from my time abroad was from our hike in the Colca Canyon. Pacific Discovery actually changed this part of the program because it was a tough hike physically and mentally. Four days of dirt paths, mud huts, scarce running water, and hot weather.

I like to tell people about one of the nights, where we stayed in huts made of mud with metal roofs. While we were relaxing after our hiking that day, a goat came into our hut and wouldn’t leave. I have multiple videos of this very friendly goat hanging out with us. We then heard a chorus of noisy goats and found out we shared a wall with a pen of probably twenty goats.

So now whenever the hotel or wherever I have to sleep has less than ideal conditions, I like to remind myself while telling other people, that it could be way worse, you could have to share a mud hut with a goat.

What made this experience unique and special?

Orphanage in Peru

Kiley: Peru was a unique and special experience because within one month, I volunteered at an orphanage, went to a Spanish school, experienced my first homestay, went mountain biking, hiked four days to Machu Picchu, went on a white water rafting and camping trip, hiked four days around the Colca Canyon, stayed in a small village at Lake Titicaca, went sand boarding in the sand dunes of Huacachina, saw the Nazca Lines, and explored multiple cities like Cusco, Arequipa, and Lima.

We did what many people do in a full summer, in one month. I remember talking to other travelers with me wondering when we were going to hit a peak in the trip. Like when we would start missing home and be too exhausted to enjoy the trip, but the peak never happened. Maybe it was adrenaline that kept us going, but I think it was probably just the amazingly beautiful and exciting Peru.

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

Cusco, Peru

Kiley: My future path was changed completely by my trip to Peru. I went into the trip as a double major in business and Spanish and a desire to explore and left with a whole new mindset. After seeing and experiencing the poverty in Peru, I realized that I wanted to do something about it.

I went back to IU last fall and changed my business major to non-profit management. I also made the decision to start working on my application for the Peace Corps by volunteering more. I’d like to join the Peace Corps right out of college and be placed somewhere in South America. The goal is to gain experience so I can one day run my own non-profit to support impoverished countries in South America.

After my month in Peru, I developed a passion for South America and now all I want to do is see all of it.