The reality of really leaving home set in before I even reached my final destination. It was midnight in Lima, Peru and I was packed into a loaded bus of people gliding across the airport to catch our next plane. It was a surreal feeling to be careening under the Peruvian moon, mildly sleep deprived, and remarkably aware that I did not speak the language around me. And despite this, I was still present, embracing the duality of navigating traveling solo, surrounded by so many unfamiliar things, people, language, and cultural nuances.
In a nutshell, so far studying abroad is a bit like jumping into higher education. In some ways, it really is just jumping both feet in without knowing exactly how to best wade through the fears and unknowns.
But I made it to Cusco!
My first week here has required equally as much fortitude as I might have expected. It’s been beautiful and difficult to adjust to the altitude and my glaring lack of Spanish vocabulary. I am reminded that I want to be vulnerable to a new culture because I want to go into immigration law, and it feels important to try and relate to the discomfort of being outside one’s home and comforts. I am learning to balance my own independence with the shared space of my host family and mutual connection to Peru.
June is a month of celebrations for Peruvians. There have been ornate parades every day in the Plaza de Armas (Main Square) and festive dancing, music, fireworks, and costumes. It is simultaneously splendid and overwhelming. There are so many exceptional sights to see that sometimes the ability to be decisive and settle into a choice is paradoxical: my mind and body want to be everywhere at once. This has been particularly true when organizing to go out for meals or events with fellow study abroad classmates. We have wandered around like loose ducklings and finding it comically complicated to decide on simple things like choosing a restaurant. The extreme change in altitude has certainly contributed to fuzzy decision-making. Luckily, it seems like all the food options are delicious (thus far!) and there are parties well beyond what one person can fully take in.
The school here in Peru has been exceptional. The professors are truly committed to advancing our knowledge of the Spanish language. I have never felt so welcomed by an academic community and it is grounding when all else feels a little uncertain. I am still transitioning from defaulting to speaking in English and being willing to reduce vocabulary and communication for the sake of speaking in Spanish. It has also required an intentional pledge to the language itself and not fall into what is comfortable. And it has not always gone to plan. There have been a few instances where I felt confident in ordering food in Spanish, only to find that I ordered something totally different than I meant to. Imagine thinking that you’re ordering a single pan de canela and receiving three croissant de chocolates instead. No complaints on my end, but slightly embarrassing and a reminder that that I need to keep practicing.
¡Nos vemos la semana que viene!