Eric Arlen

Hello from Lima, Peru! My first week in Lima attending Markham College has gone by in a blink of an eye. In the seven days I have been here, I’ve had experiences that I believed would have taken a lifetime. Through leading eleven 12-year-old Markham students on a backpacking trip to building two classrooms at a rural Peruvian school, I have learned so much about Peruvian culture (and Argentinian from my host family), people and, of course, myself.

I arrived in Lima with Micah Ross on the 26th of May and on the 30th I left by bus for a camping/backpacking trip in Santa Eulalia, a small town about two hours out of Lima. Before I left, I experienced my first two days of school at Markham. I was told so many new names that I nearly forgot my own.

Markham is very different from Athenian–teachers are called by their surnames and students wear uniforms–but the thing that really stood out is the curriculum.  I have attended Athenian for five years now and in that time have become accustomed to the way classes are taught. Coming to Markham I realized how special and different Athenian is. My exchange, Lucca Frare, noticed the same thing, but I didn’t understand until I came to Markham. Athenian teaches you how to think, while Markham teaches you what to think. I see the value in Markham’s methods, which are probably useful on standardized tests, but I have come to appreciate Athenian more than ever.

My exchange thus far has been fantastic. My host family has been accommodating, the Markham students have been welcoming, and the food has been amazing. But, of course, it has not gone without challenges. I have been studying Spanish for five years and went into exchange confident in my skills. It is a different game, however, talking to someone who speaks Spanish as a first language. Conversations become blurry with thick accents, fast speaking, and slang (la jerga), which is probably 75% of the words that are used. Challenges like these are the reasons that exchange is such a huge learning experience and I have learned the power that patience holds. By being patient and staying focused, I understand more conversational Spanish every day

The first week of exchange has gone by exceedingly quick. Truthfully, it has been more difficult than expected, but every day gets easier as I grow and mature as a person.  So be patient, be confident, and have fun. It will be over sooner than you think–and want.