The Prospect of Peru

So, it happened.

I’ve been officially accepted into the Lima semester abroad program through IU for Spring 2013.

Well, it’s not technically official. My application still has to go through Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, but Overseas Study says it’s extremely rare for them to reject someone IU has recommended.

So all things considered, I will be spending four and a half months in Peru—in South America, a dream I’ve had for more than a year and a half now. And I couldn’t help but think back to where it all began.

I was in Chicago with my fellow Ernie Pyle Scholars, making media visits one weekend during my freshman year. We were at the Trib when I came across their Spanish daily, Hoy. I snatched one, gushing to my friends how it was the coolest thing ever—combining journalism and Spanish, who would have thought it was possible?

As I flipped through it, I began to joke around that maybe I’d try to get an internship with them, since I was majoring in Spanish as well, after all. But the more I thought about it in the weeks following the trip, the more plausible it seemed. Maybe not getting an internship with this newspaper, exactly, but with a Spanish publication in general.

That’s exactly what I did. Luckily, I had been in touch with a Spanish newspaper while working on a case study for a class. On a whim, I decided to ask about internship opportunities, and I snagged a position almost immediately. Reflejos Bilingual Newspaper, it’s called, based in the Chicago suburbs. And I learned a lot from them that summer—about audiences, translating, reporting, the works. When the summer was over, however, the idea of working both Spanish and journalism into some sort of career didn’t completely click.

Until my mentor Jim Kelly sat down with me to go over my resume one day during sophomore year. I was applying for a large newspaper—clearly a long shot—but he told me to play up my Spanish skills, make myself marketable in that respect.

I took his advice. The recruiters seemed interested, but I wasn’t quite at the level I needed to be at yet. I was still unsure.

So I took it one step further. I decided to add on another aspect to my degree, a certificate in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. I began taking classes focused on this vast region of the world. I developed a fervent passion for anything and everything relating to South America, minority and indigenous populations and governmental structures.

It was then that I knew I had found my niche, and I needed to pursue it.

Soon after declaring this certificate, I began to think about study abroad options. I knew that if I was serious about my future, I would have to spend time in South America.

I spent weeks searching for the right program, the right country to travel to. Chile and Argentina were both high on my list, but there was just something missing.

Then I happened across IU’s program in Peru. It seemed perfect. It had everything I was looking for—classes taught in Spanish, host family stays, a large city, strong indigenous culture. I knew my search was over.

That was my sophomore year. Since then, I’ve taken multiple Spanish courses at IU, gained international experience by traveling to Europe, bickered endlessly with my parents about studying in South America (even throughout the application process) and probably annoyed the heck out of my friends after gushing about Peru ceaselessly.

But now, here I am, accepted into the program, months away from embarking on what very well may be one of the most important journeys of my life.

On the one hand, I can’t contain my excitement. My parents have finally relented and agreed that if it’s what I want, it’s what they want too. All anxiety about what I’ll be doing next semester and next summer has diminished. I have the opportunity to immerse myself in a culture I’ve been infatuated with for quite a while now. It’s as though everything I could have asked for has been placed on my lap.

But on the other hand, I’m absolutely terrified. I have no idea whatsoever to expect. I’ll be traveling completely alone, for one thing. To a country where English isn’t spoken. I’ll likely have to find my way to my host family’s home on my own. Being away for nearly five months, there’s no doubt I’ll be homesick. There’s a good chance I’ll fail some tests and quizzes. All things that would leave me anxious in the United States, let alone if I was confronted with them in a foreign country.

Regardless, I’m ready. I can’t wait to see what these next few months of preparation have in store for me.   Image