Cusco – Oh, The Places You Shall Go!

Katie Jacobson is a student at the University of Minnesota, Morris, and an ISA Featured Blogger. Katie is now returning from her Study + Service-Learning program in Cusco, Peru.

Who could have guessed that one month could hold so much adventure? It’s amazing to think that 29 days ago, I was on a plane leaving Minnesota, headed for Lima, Peru. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to see traditional dances, parades and shows; explore the capital city, Amazon Jungle and Machu Picchu; live with the most amazing host family; meet people from all over the United States and the world; and had my own adventures on the side with many more to come! It has been so cool to be a part of such a different culture from that of the United States. I have been learning not only tons of Spanish, but a lot more about Latin American history, religion, culture and life in general. One thing that I did not realize is how much I love building heating systems! Did you know that nearly all buildings don’t have that here.

Suggestion Number 1 – Remember the weather and cultural differences! I figured, “Oh, I’m from Minnesota, I’ve got this.” Ah, false. However, my lack of winter clothing was a great reason to buy an alpaca sweater, blanket and socks. Mittens and scarfs are also great to keep warm and small/easy enough to carry along with you, too. One of my favorite things to do during my free time is explore all of the craft areas and what not. There are so many spots to buy gifts and souvenirs! It is so easy to get caught up in everything and spend money left and right, especially because the exchange rate is so highly in our favor.

Suggestion Number 2 – Make a list of people and the gifts you’re going to get each one! And, of course, once you do buy the gift, be sure to follow suggestion number 3!

Suggestion Number 3 – Record how much you spent! It makes life way easier to have an item in mind when you’re at the market, and it helps to control your budget to not double-buy and be aware of how much you’ve spent. You may surprise yourself and save more money than you’d planned. Oh, another idea! It is actually very helpful to have a notebook and pen with you. Not only is it good for recording what you did each day so that you can remember all of the awesome details when you tell your buddies everything at home (and it may prove to be exceptionally helpful in the future at school), it also helps a lot when you have an opportunity to either learn Spanish (or Quechua!), or to teach English.

Suggestion Number 4 – Bring a backpack. I find it helpful to hold snacks, an extra sweater, mittens, my notebook, my gift list, etc. Also, it is very easy to slide under one arm to help prevent temptations for pick-pockets. Pick-pocketing does exist, but if you’re aware of your surroundings and being smart about it (such as not carrying too much money, having your wallet in an inside pocket that is close to your body, not flaunting that you are a tourist, etc.), you will be fine! Trust your gut: you know what to do.

Suggestion Number 5 – Keep an open mind and go with the flow. You’ll get the hang of things before you know it, and it makes your experience that much better! Your host family will also be a great resource for learning about cultural differences, language help and providing a sense of belonging. Yes, you do want to see all you can see, but remember that some of the best memories will not necessarily be from one of the seven wonders of the world, but rather from the experiences with your family, friends, and the simple things.

I hope that this has been helpful for all of you prospective world travelers out there! If you have any questions at all, feel free to comment or contact me – I would be happy to answer any questions that you have! Remember, it is nerve-wracking to leave what you know and head off into the great unknown, but that’s where the adventure is! You did that when you went to college or summer camp or high school or what have you, and that all turned out to be a pretty great adventure – your adventure abroad will be even better. Take the risk and I’ll see you abroad!

Talk to you soon,


2 thoughts

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