Dozens of smiling faces came rushing towards us with open arms. As my own arms opened, so did my mind, and soon after, my heart. A whole minute had passed and the children were still hugging us as if we were their long lost loved ones.
How do people change? By being inspired. By knowledge and experiences. By love.
My professor scheduled our class to visit a school that is providing poor children in the Lurigancho district with quality education. During the car ride there, I was shocked to see the beautiful bustling city of Lima disappear into dusty street roads, makeshift shack houses, and crumbling buildings in a mere hour from where I was staying. Even now, it continues to boggle my mind that the physical landscape in Peru can shift so dramatically according to the level of poverty and inequality in the area.
As we neared the school, our group was greeted by Patricia McLaughlin, a benevolent Irish Catholic nun who helped build the school from scratch when she came to Peru in 2001. Today the school continues to enroll children from the surrounding shantytown, providing them with proper nutrition and education. What makes this school’s story even more amazing is getting to see the incredible results. Recently, the 7th grade students have performed higher in reading comprehension and math than any other 7th grade students in all of Peru. Furthermore, many students have moved on to university level education and some have even been admitted into the most prestigious university in Peru.
As a future educator, being able to witness my dream career lived out before my eyes is incredibly inspirational. I feel motivated now more than ever to teach English to children in underdeveloped countries. In addition, I have a newfound desire to learn my native Spanish language and a greater appreciation for my own Mexican heritage.
Living in Peru has also helped me become a more independent person. Although I still rely on others for some things, I can now proudly state that I can cook food for myself, take public transportation by myself, go grocery shopping, and complete other adult tasks. Additionally, I am better at problem solving when presented with a difficult or stressful situation and I have become even more open-minded than ever before. Furthermore, I am more aware of my surroundings and can ask for directions and find different places. For the first time ever, I actually feel like the young adult that everyone around me sees.
Reviewing my experience as a whole, studying abroad has given me a new perspective of how to view the world I live in. Before, my world was centered around me and the people that I interacted with. A successful life was one in which I landed a secure job, had a beautiful home, and became married with a family. Now, I see the world and all the people in it. I appreciate the life I have and know that I can live without all the luxuries and material things. I am blessed to have a roof over my head, nutritious food to eat, and a safe community to live in. To me, a successful life is one that involves helping people in need and inspiring them to follow their dreams.
As my month here in Peru comes to an end, I look forward to sharing my study abroad experience with others and using the knowledge and skills I have learned back home in the United States. Until my next adventure, ciao!