First Impressions of Cusco

Now in its fourth year, the Service Learning and Language Immersion Program in Peru is a collaboration of the Center for Civic Engagement, the Master’s of Public Administration Department in the College of Community and Public Affairs and the Office of International Programs. It combines a course at Binghamton University with 3 weeks of on-site language immersion and service-learning in Peru.

Below are excerpts from participating students' reflections on their first few days in Cusco, Peru. They discuss w
hat has the most surprising thing thus far, what they have seen that is different than what they are accustomed to, and what they have seen that is similar to what they are used to.

Please stay tuned to our blog and Facebook page for updates from the students throughout the coming weeks.

"In New York, festivals often last a few hours during the day in order to not disrupt or disturb those who do not wish to participate. Here in Peru, no one can avoid the festivities that seem to last all day and night. My host mother tells me that generally Peruvians love to enjoy themselves. In the United States, people value their job and status. I believe that while Peruvians certainly value their job and hard work, there is not that stressful pursuit of money and greed that is present in US culture. In my opinion, people in Peru seem to be more relaxed, happier, and healthier than people in the United States." --Ryan Walsh
"The scenery is stunning, my host family has welcomed me with open arms, and the locals are so kind and grateful. The most surprising thing to me is how busy the city of Cusco is. Before arriving I did not expect so the city to have so much energy and commotion, but after learning that about 2 million people visit Cusco each year, this was not as surprising." --Marlena Santos
"Although I wouldn't say I experienced culture shock, some things did surprise me. Firstly, after only a week in Cusco, my Spanish improved dramatically. The classes have been helpful for review, but speaking with my host mom and even the kids has definitely been the cause of my improvement.
Also, the children that I've encountered in Coya through AbrePuertas and have seen navigating the city of Cusco are extremely independent. I wouldn't hesitate to say that these kids are more independent now than I will ever be." --Rachel Keller
"For three days, we got to know the children of Coya and Huaynapaca. We played and read to them. I felt so grateful that they wanted to share their time and culture with me, and in return I felt I needed to do the same. I brought them a children's book about the ancient Greek gods, as I am Greek. The interchange of culture happened with ever word we spoke. "Profe" they called me.  One particular little girl taught me Quechua throughout the three days and she asked me to teach her English." --Angela Papageorgiou
"There is such a vast difference in the lives of those who live in the rural mountains to those who live in Cusco city. My host sisters live such similar lives to the way I did in high school. Their days are filled with school and enrichment. They play sports and dance just as I did when I was their age. These opportunities are not as widespread in the rural areas, but happiness and appreciation is definitely felt in the areas we travel to, especially at our first service site Abre Puertas in Coya. " --Roseann Puthiyamadam
"I didn't expect Cuzco to be influenced by tourism to this extent. Similar to New York City, the pace is very fast and almost everything is catered to the tourists. It is tempting to stay in the touristy areas where I feel comfortable, but I have found that my most enriching experiences have been when I force myself into the local culture. Although it seems that Cuzco is fast-paced, I have noticed that it is only the tourists that make it seem that way. I am going to try to slow down and appreciate everything around me as I continue to explore this beautiful city." --Jessica Tullo 
"I'm five days into my three weeks here in Cusco, Peru and the most surprising thing that I have seen thus far is definitely the way the children are treated. Compared to the children at home, they have so much more freedom here. I see little kids as young as two years old running around by themselves and I can't help but think about how many parents at home would have a heart attack if this was happening." --Raven Pitarra
"I think the most surprising (and terrifying) thing is the way people drive in Peru. Looking both ways before crossing the street has a whole new meaning in Peru because that can determine the difference between life and death. The streets of Cusco, Peru (similar to that of New York City) are always busy day and night with people going and coming back from work and roads filled with buses, cars, taxis, trucks, etc. " --Reshma Satish 

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