First Impressions of SFS Peru

Posted: February 11, 2015

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
As an environmental studies major with a concentration in sociology, I was hoping for a program of a certain level of academic rigor in a place where I could really get my hands dirty. SFS, particularly the Peru program, seemed to really emphasize a balance of field work and research with a conscious level of community contribution. I chose SFS because I felt this program would complement my studies at Skidmore, while giving me valuable field experience in a totally new and somewhat alien place.

What are you first impressions of the country?
Having been in Peru just over a month now, as I decided to come early and spend January WWOOFing on an organic farm in the Andes, I have found myself completely enamored with the numerous landscapes, both environmentally and culturally, which Peru boasts. From tiny Quechua pueblos where eucalyptus and pine trees dot mountain valleys, to Cusco’s bustling international hotspot, to this sleepy tropical town, “diversity” is a concept Peru does well.

What are your first impressions of the field station?
Villa Carmen is frankly a bit of a paradise. The open air buildings allow us to continually feel the rainforest climate. Beautifully maintained gardens teem with life; colorful peppers, yucca, and an impressive assortment of exciting, tropical fruits. The maloca, a gazebo-like structure above the fish ponds, acts as a meeting place, lecture hall, and even a yoga studio. Miles of trails wind the surrounding hills, still largely unexplored by us newcomers, holding who knows how many secrets.

I have been continually struck by how special it is for us to be here, not only in the Amazonian rainforest, but in this particular zone at Villa Carmen, where the snowcapped Andes touch the sky only a few hundred kilometers from where we sit surrounded by humid heat and valleys that brim with green. As students, we are lucky to have the presence of Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA) here as well, giving us opportunities to spend mealtimes with various environmental experts and scientists, many of them native Spanish speakers. From fish feeding time, to cranking out biochar, to measuring pineapple height, to monitoring rainforest wildlife, it is clear to us that Villa Carmen is an important location for ACCA. We are excited to take part.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
I predict that, on a small scale, I will mostly struggle with living in such close quarters and working in such a small space with these new friends. However, so far things are going wonderfully with the group. Everyone has been really enthusiastic to do different activities and be open with each other to make the shared space more bearable.

On a larger scale, I already feel myself struggling to reconcile my privilege in being here in this small tropical town, ready to research and make some sort of impact. I truly hope that whatever contribution I may make to Pillcopata through Directed Research will be helpful and well-received. Being a U.S. citizen in a foreign country can mean a variety of things, and I hope to exercise this privilege in only positive ways within this community.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I am mostly looking forward to getting to know the Pillcopata community and hopefully making a contribution that is not invasive. I also am ecstatic to see Manu National Park, as it is a once in a lifetime experience. Lastly, I look forward to just being here at Villa Carmen and calling it home—facing daily heat and welcoming rain showers on our skin, hearing the incessant call of more birds and insects than I’ve ever heard at once before, and being in a constant state of wonder at the plethora of new and strange species that surround us.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Hot, immersed, open