Where in the World is Miami Wednesday: Peru


By Nicole Richards and Syd O'Wesney

In this week's, Where in the World is Miami Wednesday, we meet Olivia, a junior International Studies major studying abroad in Cusco, Peru.

At Miami, Olivia is involved in Asian American Association as a Fusion choreographer, is a member of the exec board for Red Dragons Martial Arts, and is a Paws 4 a Cause puppy sitter. Olivia is studying the history of Peru and how indigenous peoples/cultures have been treated in the past, how they are evolving and adapting in the current day, and what problems and benefits they encounter in their daily lives. She is taking Spanish and Quechua (native Peruvian indigenous language) classes as well. She is also learning about proper research methods and ethics to prepare for her independent study project, which will be carried out during the last month of the program.

Why did you choose the program that you did?

I knew I wanted to study somewhere in South America, because it would be a great opportunity to immerse myself in the Spanish language and therefore get better at it. I asked around to see which country I should go to, and a majority of people recommended that I go to Peru. After deciding on Peru, the search for a program was narrowed down a lot. I chose this one because I have always been interested in indigenous cultures; I feel like they don’t get talked about enough or are largely ignored in history and culture classes. I wanted to learn more about the indigenous community in Peru and how they have managed to preserve their culture in an increasingly globalized/Westernized world.

Coolest places you have visited?

Machu Picchu has definitely been my favorite so far! It was amazing to be able to see it in person after our 6 hour hike on the Inca Trail. The high altitude made the hike a serious challenge, but it was so worth it. I also visited Saqsaywaman, which is some old Incan ruins in Cusco. It’s very cool to see the architecture and ingenuity of the Incas and how it’s still standing today. I also love going to Plaza de Armas in Cusco, it’s a great place to go for some good eats or shopping.


What is your favorite part about your program?

My favorite part about this program is all the excursions! Rather than sit in a classroom for the entire semester, we get to go on several week-long trips where we actually visit indigenous communities or important historical locations in order to better understand what we are learning about. I think this kind of immersion and direct experience is super important to understand the material taught in class.

How has your identity impacted your time abroad?

I am half-Japanese, and my identity has definitely affected my experience here. Peruvians have a very bizarre perception of the Asian community, from what I can tell so far. While not necessarily racist, in general Peruvians think that all Asian people (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, etc.) belong to one group, which they refer to as “chinos” (Chinese). Rather than acknowledge each Asian culture as distinct and culturally unique, they assume that all Asians are the same, which isn’t an uncommon idea in the United States either. I’ve decided to conduct my independent study project on this topic, so I’m looking forward to further researching Peruvian-Asian relationships.

How has the study abroad experience changed you so far?

We’re only 3 weeks in, but I feel like I’ve done a lot and changed during the short time that I’ve been here. When I first arrived in the Cusco airport, alone, I was scared and nervous. I was worried about fitting in, getting used to the language and culture, and adjusting to a completely new and unfamiliar country. Since then, I feel like I’ve adapted a lot; I’m much more comfortable with the city, my Spanish is improving, and I’ve made a lot of really great friends through this program. I like to think that being so far away from home and the familiarity of the Miami campus is teaching me to be more independent, and to take advantage of these rare opportunities instead of running away from them.

Catch us next week as we continue to travel around the world to feature the amazing opportunities that Miami students are taking and the experiences our alumni have had since graduating!

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