Micah Ross Arrives in Peru




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Greetings from Lima! I have spent the last two weeks attending Markham College in Lima, Peru. Markham is vastly different both from Athenian and also from my expectations of it going into the exchange. It is a very large school and is difficult to navigate classes, but the people I’ve met here have already changed my life more than I can fathom.

I am currently taking Math, English, Spanish, Global Politics, Psychology, Theory of Knowledge (Philosophy), and Film. Although the school has an IB [International Baccalaureate] program –which ensures that most of the classes are taught in English– all conversations outside of the classroom are in Spanish. When I first came, this was really hard for me because Peruvian accents are extremely thick and they speak very fast. I felt lost and had to force myself to smile and laugh along in social situations where I had no idea what was going on. I was sure that I was going to spend the next eight weeks in this kind of environment, never being able to understand anyone. After being immersed in these situations for two weeks, however, I have come to enjoy soaking up all of the Spanish even if I can’t understand it. Indeed, my ability to understand and speak the language has improved exponentially. In only two weeks, I now understand 80% of what people are saying.

Most of my teachers have been very kind and understanding, though they still give me some work; however, I am really enjoying the assignments they have given me. I am currently working on a presentation about the different political parties in the United States for my Global Politics class. For my Spanish class, I am writing a book report in Spanish about my favorite book, Japanese Lover (also known as El Amante Japonés).

After my first two days of school at Markham, all of the exchanges were required to go on a trip to a place about two hours outside of Lima called Santa Eulalia. This is an annual five-day camping trip for the kids in S1 (7th grade). Students from my grade as well as the exchanges went as leaders. At first, I was worried to be taken out of an already foreign situation and placed in another, but the five days I spent there were honestly incredible. We spent two days building a kindergarten in a really underserved area, and I developed a close connection with a young girl who would be going to school there. Additionally, we went rock climbing, mountain biking, zip-lining, repelling, swimming, and on a mini-backpacking trip. I was able to develop connections with some of the younger kids, and the trip definitely helped improve my Spanish.

My host family is incredible; I could not ask for a better situation. My exchange, Almendra, has been incredibly kind and always ensures that not a day goes by where we don’t try a new food or see a new sight. My host mother, Claudia, has also been so deeply welcoming. When I first came to their house after I arrived at the airport, I was greeted by a cluster of “Welcome Home” balloons and a kiss on the cheek from Almendra, her brothers, and Claudia. I love the hospitality that is so ingrained in Peruvian culture!

Even though I have had so many amazing moments here– such as trying ceviche for the first time, taking a salsa class, or watching the Peru versus Scotland World Cup match with a group of friends–I must say that exchange is not easy. My emotions are overly-heightened. I have often felt lonely, sad, and jealous of all my friends and family back home. As time goes on, the negative emotions have slowly decreased and the positive ones have increased. I have learned that negative emotions aren’t necessarily negative in-of-in-themselves. Instead, they are opportunities to develop your understanding of self during hard times when you aren’t living in the context of your friends and family. Moments like these are hard. It is comforting to know that half of my grade back home are going on exchange and can empathize and relate to the hardships that come with such a huge adjustment in one’s life.

Exchange is such a cool experience because everything about it is so unique. Yet the feelings of hardship and loneliness are universal for your classmates who are also embarking on their own exchange adventures. I have found that talking to my friends who are on exchange is really helpful because they understand exactly what I am going through. I encourage everyone with friends who are going on exchange to check in with them, even if it’s just once. Even a small text from my friends back home brightened my day, and reminded me that I was never alone.

Overall, my time in Lima thus far has been incredible. I have come to love the spontaneity of the culture. I am now used to my exchange walking in my room as I am going to bed and telling me that we are going out for sushi. Every day I wake up and am so genuinely happy to be going to school, to see my friends, and to try more of the INCREDIBLE food. I am so excited to get to spend the next six-and-a half-weeks here and to continue to develop friendships and create new experiences.