“Why Peru?” No matter who I tell about my study abroad plans, this question immediately follows. Why Lima? Why such an extended trip? Why are you crazy?! (Okay, my sanity hasn’t been questioned, at least not to my face.)
I chose Peru because of my mother, Linda. As a teenager, my mom had a foreign exchange student from rural Peru, and this young woman with a different language and a different culture became like a sister to my mother. And Peru is the only place my mom has every really wanted to visit. So my trip is somewhat a gift to her, because she will now have the excuse to buy a $1,500 plane ticket and spend three weeks in the country she’s been dreaming about for 35 years.
But I chose to study Spanish in Latin America on my own. While Spain and Europe are heavily trekked locations for students looking to study abroad, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to have an experience that wouldn’t only be a good time, but would challenge me emotionally, mentally and physically. I knew I wanted to study in a developing country where I could learn Spanish while still challenging my notions about the modern world. And I chose the year trip because I plan to come back fluent in Spanish.
Peru will do all those things. I wanted to see poor peasants living the way their Incan ancestors lived, understand the political atmosphere of a third-world country and hike some of the most beautiful landscape in the world. While I probably won’t get a hot shower for a year, it’ll be more than worth it.
(A stranger took this photo of my mother and me as we climbed to the top of Harney Peak in Custer State Park in the South Dakota Black Hills. Together, we discovered a world we had never seen before, and will do the same when she visits me in Peru.)