Posted: February 13, 2017

SFS students in programs around the world have arrived, and as they begin to settle into their new homes, we asked them to give some first impressions of the program. Katlin Gott and Mira McCoy had this to say about their experiences in Peru so far:

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
Katlin: I had heard a lot about SFS from students and professors at my school. When I expressed an interest in studying abroad, my advisor specifically recommended the SFS program. I looked more into it and realized that it covered everything that I was interested in. As a biology major, the idea of being able to conduct research in the Amazon and other areas of Peru was extremely appealing.

Mira: SFS sounded like it offered a unique experience from all other study abroad programs that I had considered – and more importantly it offered a unique life experience that I wouldn’t be able to get if I just went down to Peru on my own. I was also attracted to the idea of class outside of a classroom.

What are your first impressions of the country?
Katlin: The people in Urubamba are very friendly. I’ve had conversations with several locals, and they all seem excited to hear about what we’re learning. I love the mountains and the area we’re in.

Mira: Everyone in Peru is so friendly, each person we pass says hello to us and everyone is so eager to help us. Peruvian food is hands down my new favorite kind of food, it is absolutely amazing and I’m pretty sure that I could survive off Peruvian bananas and mangoes alone.

Peru itself is gorgeous and my favorite part thus far has been the mountains. There are two large peaks visible at all times from our station and they never fail to make me stop and gaze at them every time I leave my room. Peru is the biodiversity capital of the world and being here makes me wish that I had about ten more pairs of eyes because everywhere I look is more life. I miss home but I’ve fallen in love with Peru faster and more deeply than I thought was possible.

What are your first impressions of the field station?
Katlin: The field station is absolutely gorgeous, the staff are very kind, and everything seems very well managed. Meals have been delicious, and the experience so far has just been wonderful.

Mira: Our main field station originally was a hotel and is surrounded by a wall that gives us our own private area. It’s like a small paradise in here with tons of hammocks strewn up in for relaxing and flowers everywhere. My favorite part of our station so far is the big field we have in front of our dining building which is always filled with students playing some sort of game.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
Katlin: I tend to procrastinate a lot academically, but since we don’t have a lot of extra time here, I’ll need to learn how to manage my time more effectively. I have taken several years of Spanish, but in order to get along with locals I’ll need to learn more about cultural faux pas, traditional greetings, etc. Just during the first week I learned that just saying “hello” without adding “good morning”, “good afternoon”, or “good evening” is considered rude and rushed. I’m sure I’ll continue learning these things throughout the semester, but in the meantime I guess I’ll just have to hope that I don’t do something that is culturally insensitive.

Mira: SFS is an academically rigorous program as well as one that goes on a lot of short (or not so short) excursions. Our schedule is always filled to the brim with our long class hikes, trips, or moving around to new stations. I love that we push to get as much out of the semester but it’ll be important to manage my time and ensure that I get enough relaxation time. Becoming more fluent in Spanish is another important task of mine, especially because Peru like all other countries has its own specific slang and ways of saying things. Even if fluent in Spanish, conversing can still be a challenge as Quetchua, the indigenous language, is also prominent here.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
Katlin: I can’t wait to visit the Manu wildlife conservation center. I’m super exited to learn more about the plant and animal life there and conduct some interesting research.

Mira: Later this semester we get to go on night walks in the jungle to help investigate the understudied Night Monkey. I’m so excited to help research an animal that has so much unknown about it as well as experience the Amazon at night.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Katlin: Excited, overwhelmed, eager

Mira: Excited, homesick, in wonder

→ Biodiversity and Development in the Andes-Amazon, Peru