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Jennifer, Peru Language Immersion Study Tour
Summer 2012

Jennifer spent her summer break a little differently than from most students by touring and studying in the South American country of Peru for five weeks. Jennifer is pursuing a degree at Minot State University with a major in chemistry and a minor in Spanish. Jennifer believes that there is no better way to learn a language than to directly immerse oneself amongst native speakers. So, when she heard that Kemerly Moorhouse, Peru native and an adjunct Spanish instructor at MSU would be leading the Peruvian Culture and Language Immersion study tour for the fourth consecutive summer, Jennifer knew immediately that she wanted to take part.

The program took students to Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu, and the Nazca lines, among other famous destinations in Peru. But the experience that impacted Jennifer did not take place in the ancient ruins of the Incas or while sight-seeing in the metropolis of Lima. It was, in fact, the volunteer work in which the group participated that had the greatest effect on Jennifer. Over 50% of Peruvian population lives in poverty, and the students on this program had the opportunity to witness this reality through two different volunteer experiences.

First, the Spanish language students worked side-by-side with a group of Catholic school children who spend their Saturdays in Callao, a low-income seaport town near Lima. During their visits, the students from the Catholic school simply play games with the area children and bring food for them to share. While on this excursion, a mother from the area offered to give the group a tour of her home. Jennifer recalled a dirt-floored, one bedroom house where a family of four lived together. The mother explained that she spends 10 soles (approximately 3 USD) for food each week. The experience helped Jennifer realize very quickly just how lucky she is for even the simple things in life: the comforts of her home in the U.S., the opportunity to go to school, and even the ability to own a car as a university student.

The second volunteer opportunity took place in the city of Puno, where the group spent time working in an orphanage. Here, Jennifer met a six-year-old girl who made quite an impact. The climate in Puno is very chilly year-round, but especially during the winter months (June, July, August). Despite the cold weather, this child could only afford a sweater and had no gloves or scarves. Her father and brother had died, and her mother could not afford to take care of her, so she stayed in the orphanage. Jennifer said, “it makes you value what you have in the (United) States with your family. They had no one but the sisters that can take care of them.”

Studying abroad gave Jennifer a first-hand look at how living conditions can differ around the world, and made a lasting impression.