Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I struggled quite a bit with the concept of studying abroad. As someone who does their best to intentionally promote intersectional justice, I felt very strongly about the fact that I should critically analyze the ways in which I exercised my privilege – I mean, let’s acknowledge that spending three and a half months in the highlands and lowlands of Peru is something not everyone has the means or the opportunity to do. I wanted to ensure that if I were to spend time abroad, I would be a meaningful contributor to the community I would be a part of and not a sap on the communities’ resources and knowledge. SFS has a dedicated commitment to cultural reciprocity, working to promote the mutual exchange of cultures and skillsets. I was drawn to this model of education, and I fell in love with the opportunity to conduct research that would have positive and realistic applications in the Pilcopata community.
What are your first impressions of the country?
Peru is a country with incredible diversity: landscapes that change as rapidly as a breath; species found nowhere else on earth; unique climate conditions; people who work incredibly hard and long days doing jobs that many people do not realize still exist today. It is a country that facilitates gratitude and compassion, wonder and yearning, and an inexhaustible desire to reevaluate what makes life enjoyable and worth living. Peru is a place that can guide one towards feeling fully alive, and it is already helping me to understand myself and my role on this planet a little more each day.
What are you first impressions of the field station?
While we have not yet made our way to Pillcopata and the Villa Carmen station, we have had the opportunity to live and work out of a hotel in Yucay. We are living a comfortable life that many people all over the world do not have access to, and for that I am incredibly grateful. A family that has been running this hotel for over fifteen years is working hard day and night to provide us with meals that are muy delicioso (y picante!) and create an atmosphere that is clean, quiet, and uplifting as we begin our studies. There is a garden, an open air atrium, a handsome cat, and plenty of communal spaces for us to work and get to know each other throughout this first stage in an unforgettable journey.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
SFS is an academically intensive program – we have the opportunity to do extensive field research, work with experienced researchers, and continuously unpack the social, environmental, and economic milieus that define Peru. I am hopeful that I will be able to excel in my coursework while also taking the time to enjoy the unique landscape and form relationships with both SFS community members and locals. As someone who has never formally studied Spanish, I recognize that learning the language will be a hurdle for me to overcome. However, with the guidance of our Spanish professor Erik, I’m sure I’ll be fluent in no time (keep your fingers crossed for me). In order to form the relationships I want to have with members of the communities we will be living in, I will have to constantly redefine my comfort zone and put in as much effort as I possibly can to meet people halfway.
What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
As we begin classes and field excursions, I am most excited to have professors – who know so much about the land and about the community – impart some of their knowledge to myself and the other students. Today, we went on a hike as part of our Tropical Ecology class in order to examine how biodiversity shows up in relation to the compounding environmental conditions of the Peruvian landscape. It may have been a little difficult to focus at times because of how beautiful and breathtaking our surroundings were, but I was really able to feel the passion that Adrian had for teaching us about the tropics. I still cannot believe that I have this opportunity, and I look forward to living in the moment (each and every one) in order to soak it all in and return home a more thoughtful, solution-oriented leader for the vast amounts of work we have got to do in order to restore and preserve our (only) planet.
Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Grateful – Humbled – Inspired