4 Things You Need to Know Before You Study in Cusco, Peru


Joshua Barnhart is a student at Castleton University and an ISA Featured Blogger. He is currently studying abroad with ISA in Cusco, Peru.

  1. Spanish. Just kidding guys. I mean, it is helpful to learn Spanish, but the first thing you need to know before you study here is to be open about doing new things. It sounds very cliché, but you’re going to be seeing and doing a lot of new things. Say yes when someone invites you somewhere, and always go out and explore with the local friends you make (ISA activities are a good way to meet local students). You’re here to learn and experience a new culture, not to live your regular life in a different city.
  2. The weather here is consistent. And by consistent, I mean the temperature consistently changes almost 20 degrees each day. When your Peruvian mama, your host mom, your mama sustituya, whatever you want to call her, tells you to put a scarf on, LISTEN TO HER. Many of us felt as though people were being dramatic, because it’s quite warm in the middle of the day. The problem is the rapid change in temperature. If it’s been 60 all week and then suddenly decides it’s going to rain for 4 days, you’re going to wake up feeling not so hot. Try to always be at a comfortable temperature; it’s very important. Feeling good means doing more things, and doing things is why you’re here. Take care of yourself so you can go have fun!
  3. You are a gringo. Believe me, I know it doesn’t feel that way for many of us because we speak Spanish, but we are. Being called a gringo in Peru is something you might feel strangely about. People may assume you don’t speak Spanish; people may say things in a negative tone about you being a tourist or a gringo. People may say things like “gringos are that way” or “look at all the gringos.” This might not be something you are used to. The best way to deal with a situation like this is to embrace it. You can make jokes about being a gringo; you can call yourself gringo. It lightens the mood. You can make many new friends laugh or feel more comfortable around you by embracing your “gringo-ness.”
  4. Your life will be more than wifi, hot water, and good plumbing. Wifi often is turned off late at night, as is water. You CANNOT flush toilet paper. These are small things, but they are things you are used to at home. Culture shock hits people differently. Some people need their wifi. Some people take 30 minute showers. Some people instinctively throw their toilet paper in the toilet and have to fish it out with the toilet brush because they forgot (it wasn’t me, I swear). Remember those things fondly, and if you feel frustrated by the lack of them, just remember how lucky you are to have views like these.
Views like these are common in Cusco, but you won't get sick of them
Views like these are common in Cusco, but you won’t get sick of them

The world awaits…discover it.

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