Initial Challenges Become Great Opportunities While Abroad

After arriving in Cusco, Peru my breath was taken away by the mountainous landscape, the warm air, and the open arm welcome by the ISA staff and my host family. The first week is a blur of meeting my peers, exploring the local area, starting classes, and spending time with my host family. As I reflect on this exciting time, I realize how much happens in only a week and the importance of taking the time to process the excitement of being in a new place. The first week can be overwhelming and overstimulating, but taking a little time each day to ponder the days coming and goings is essential to making the most of any study abroad experience. In my first week in Cusco, Peru I have integrated reflection into my days and found common themes about what excites and challenges me the most!

  1. Homestay Food

    Cusco from Christo Blanco

    Cusco from Christo Blanco

Since starting college, I can’t remember the last time I had three home cooked sit down meals, every day, with long conversations, and loosing track of time in the aroma of various dishes. This is a major perk of living with a host family. My host mom, Mamma Jube as we are told to call her, is like the quintessential grandmother. Every meal is served hot off the stove with a cup of tea, a smile, and a hug. No matter the dish, I seize the opportunity to try new foods and immerse myself in the gastronomical culture of Peru. From quinoa breads and smoothies, to potatoes in various forms and colors, to apricot jams, rice and vegetables, moriche palm fruit, and many more, each dish offers a new chance to try something new. I may like some more than others, but nevertheless, meal time is a great way to learn about the culture through taste, smell, and listening to Mamma Jube’s stories.

  1. Learning Spanish

In the first week, the excitement also comes with challenges, for instances, being in a country where the primary language is Spanish. As someone who has taken Spanish courses in high school, and in my first year of college, now as a junior, I am certainly a little rusty when it comes to speaking the language. This has certainly been a challenge for me in my first week as I try to tell my host family about my home, what I learned in classes each day, and generally expressing myself. However, this challenge is also a great opportunity to become better at a different language and to push myself to work at it not matter how hard it may be. There are also great resources through ISA to help with this endeavor as I will be seeing a native speaker once a week for tutoring sessions. Between classes, tutoring sessions, talking with my host family and various taxi drivers, I can’t wait to see my Spanish improve!

  1. Remember, you are here for three months!

In the first week, it is both exciting and challenging to remember study abroad lasts three months. On one hand, it is challenging to be away from family and friends for an extended period of time. On the other hand, it is exciting to think about all the time you will have to explore a new country. The key here, is remembering you have plenty of time to explore all the things you hope to see. In the first week, I found myself overwhelmed by the endless amount of “Must See” site lists for Peru, the multitude of guided tours, and the endless Inca Trails. I soon learned, the first week is not the time to try to plan every activity you hope to do while studying abroad. Give yourself time to adjust to living in a new place, design a schedule for talking to friends and family back home, and start to compile a list of your own top five must see sites. Three months in a new place will be filled with sensational and difficult undertakings, but each one can be seen as a new and marvelous opportunity!