Machu Picchu and much, much more…
Spending 5 months living and working in Peru as part of my Year Abroad was one of the scariest but most exciting and worthwhile opportunities I have ever had. I decided to go to Peru because I wanted to have the experience of exploring somewhere completely new and pushing myself out of my comfort zone not only with the language but with the food, local traditions and environment. Many of my friends chose destinations a bit closer to home, but I wanted to take what I felt to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Although daunting at first, Peru is definitely doable. I had support from the University and SLC Year Abroad teams and from previous students who had been away.
Instead of studying, I chose to teach English in Peruvian schools. I took two placements during my 5 months in Peru, one in the Northern coastal city of Chiclayo and another in Lima. This was set up by a charity organisation called VolunTeachPeru that has links with The University of Sheffield. It is a family business run by a friendly Peruvian woman called Shadia who lives in Lima. As part of the scheme, I lived with host families who have children who went to the same schools that I worked in. The job was really fun and both schools were excited to have British assistants helping out. The school in Chiclayo, ‘Colegio San Agustín’, was huge and particularly rewarding. The people of Chiclayo are incredibly friendly. The city is nicknamed ‘La Ciudad de la Amistad’ (the city of friendship) and this attitude resonated throughout the whole school. I was teaching in Kinder classes (5 year olds) through to 5th grade of secondary (16/17 year olds) and I really enjoyed it. The Peruvian school system is less constrained than many English institutions and this produces very interactive and creative young people, which makes teaching a relaxed and fun process. On top of this, the school had sports days, spelling bees, huge dances and competitions that we were encouraged to get involved in. Being a judge for the English Spelling Bee was more testing than I would have thought! The teachers were welcoming and inclusive – we ate lunch with them every day and we were invited to staff parties and gatherings. My second school situated in a very swish district of Lima, ‘Colegio Regina Pacis’, was equally enjoyable. As the school was much smaller, I felt like I got to know the staff and students well - most of the staff had gone there themselves!
One of the biggest culture shocks for me was living with host families. This allowed me to be completely immersed in Peruvian culture. I was eating ‘tamales’ for breakfast, ‘arroz y huevos’ for lunch and ‘pescado frito’ for dinner, taking the school bus with all the school kids and doing normal everyday Peruvian things like giving everyone you meet two kisses on the cheek (I once went to my host dad’s office and had to double cheek kiss over 30 people!). The host families both welcomed me with wide arms and I soon became their ‘hermanita’. Initially, I was really worried about my level of Spanish as I was an Ab Initio student, however I didn’t have to, as by the end of my first placement my Spanish skills had skyrocketed. I was hearing and talking in Spanish from 6am till I went to bed! I will never forget the last week I spent in Chiclayo, sitting around the dinner table with the family and being able to completely understand everything. What a relief!
I was lucky enough to do lots of travelling around Peru. Some of my favourite places were; Huacachina, Tarapoto, Huaraz, Chachapoyas, Cusco, Arequipa and, of course, Machu Picchu! At the end of my two placements, I visited Chile, Argentina and Uruguay for two weeks with another volunteer, which was an amazing experience and they were all so different. Peru is an incredible country and it has so much to offer. The mountains, jungle, desert and coast are all equally as beautiful and as interesting as each other. The culture is so rich, and the people so passionate and invested in it - everyone you meet is so proud to be Peruvian. After completing my Year Abroad, I am a more confident, open and well-rounded person. I feel so privileged to have had these incredible experiences and opportunities that have been made possible by studying languages at Sheffield.
Rosa Mumford-Turner, BA French and Hispanic studies
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