Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I wanted to my study abroad to be focused on experiential learning about the natural world in the natural world. SFS emphasizes this – at least three of our classes so far have been partially or entirely in the field! I chose to study abroad in Peru because I wanted to experience a unique ecosystem that few will ever have a chance to experience. The challenge of living in a relatively remote area of Peru also appealed to me.
What are your first impressions of the country?
Diverse! During the 8 hour drive from Cusco to Villa Carmen, we passed through a multitude of ecosystems – from the dry, grassy highlands to the moist and cool cloud forest to (finally) the blindingly green lowland foothills where Villa Carmen is located. The Peruvians I’ve spoken with have also been very kind and helpful. I look forward to getting to know Peru through talking to Peruvians on our trips outside Villa Carmen.
What are your first impressions of the field station?
Villa Carmen is definitely nothing like what we students are accustomed to calling “school,” but that’s what makes it great. You can’t escape interacting with the forest here – from the tree frogs jumping into the sink as you brush your teeth to macaws attempting to break into your bedroom to bird calls occasionally drowning out a professor’s lecture – but I doubt anyone would want to escape it. We have excellent food, beautiful views, mosquito nets, and interesting people to talk to. What more could one want?
What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
Surprisingly, I think the biggest academic challenge will be time management! There is always something exciting to do here that isn’t reading for class or homework, be it a hike, swimming in the river, playing soccer, or even doing chores or laundry. In addition, because we are often surrounded by North American volunteers at Villa Carmen, we can choose our level of cultural participation to some extent. Generally, this is rare when one travels. I think my cultural challenge will be challenging myself to leave my comfort zone and choose to interact with Peruvian culture and Peruvians more than my “autopilot” setting might dictate.
What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I am looking forward to traveling to other parts of Peru and comparing the landscapes and life. I am also excited to observe as many new plants, animals, and insects as possible!
Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Community: cognizant of embarking on a unique experience of living closely with other students and nature
Curious: there is so much left to explore near (like Pillcopata, the nearby town) and far (other eco-regions of Peru that we will visit)
Captivated: being plunged into such a different environment fosters introspection and a generally heightened awareness