Now that I am back home, I realized I was taking so much for granted. This trip was amazing and stressful all in the same time. Our original trip was to Nicaragua and we changed the location last minute due to violent protests in Nicaragua. Due to the recent change, our Peru trip was more of an adaptable experience. As a student facilitator of the trip, I was stressed to make sure that everything fell into place. But when I got back, I also missed my host country. I missed the people that we worked with at the clinics on the trip. I missed the greens and blues of the land. I missed traveling around.
This experience really opened my eyes to how different healthcare is in different countries. We are so fortunate to have a lot of access to information about health and healthcare in general here in the United States. Every day that we were in Peru we traveled to a new small village to set up a pop up clinic. Many of these people were beyond grateful to even receive ibuprofen – something we can buy so easily and cheaply here in the states. I learned so much about the Spanish culture and how a lot of these people live their everyday lives. Spending time in Peru has also really helped me to connect to people at my job here as an interpreter. By being able to understand more about their culture I can understand them and make them feel more comfortable. Studying abroad really teaches one how to have an open mind and how to adapt. With this trip especially, I really had to know how to adapt. Every place I have studied I have met so many people and learned about so many different stories. One of the best things I have learned from studying abroad is how important listening is. There is always a time to take a moment and listen. Listen to those stories around you. Everyone has one. You can learn so much from the people around you, especially abroad.
Coming back to the United States was very different. In Peru, we were outsiders. We were the minority – everywhere that we went everyone stared and knew that we were outsiders. Everything was in Spanish. I was so used to speaking in Spanish that when I returned to the States I almost ordered food in Spanish. It was weird being surrounded by my own language and familiar places again. It also made me realize the stark difference between home and Peru.
The best advice that I would give to study abroad students is to keep an open mind. Take a moment to listen. Absorb everything and go on adventures! You can rest when you are home. And also, take time to make friends. There are so many amazing people to meet abroad whether it is on your program or in the country. Many of these relationships will change your life for the better.