As I am writing this blog, I have been back in the United States for about 3 weeks. Only now are things beginning to feel familiar again. However, Peru has left a lasting impact on myself and how I view the world.
During the final work week at AASD, we had an exit interview to help us reflect on how we could take the lessons we had learned back with us. The staff focused primarily on two areas: professional/career and personal. Spurred by that interview, I wanted to share my response.
After having developed a friendship with several of the staff members at AASD, I learned that many of them had very different backgrounds. Before coming to Peru, many had changed their major several times or moved around the country searching for the career they wanted. The thing that everybody had in common was passion and a commitment to the mission of AASD. Having changed my mind several times about how to combine what I am passionate about, leaving for Peru was troubling for me. I knew that when I returned, I would need to know where I’d like to specialize to apply for graduate school. Now, as I am writing this, I have happily finished compiling a list of places I plan to send applications. I am able to “happily” compile this list because I know that my peculiar passions for music, art, robotics, philosophy, and maps can be combined. I learned to accept the uncertainty that not everything I love will show in my career; however, I also learned to understand that if I am passionate enough about something, it will find its way into my life again.
On a personal note, I was the most nervous about having to speak primarily Spanish while abroad. Living with social anxiety proves to be difficult alone, and I wasn’t sure how crossing that boundary in another language would look. The first two weeks were a struggle. Every night when I got home, I would review Duolingo and my Spanish dictionary to learn new vocabulary and rehearse common conjugations in my head. At the end of week 2, I was required to conduct an interview in Spanish to a Quechua woman about her relationship with AASD. So not only did I have to organically make conversation in Spanish, but I also needed to navigate the awkward waters of discussing the organization I worked for with her. This was a social situation I would have had difficulty within English, but I reluctantly gave it my best try. Looking back, the immense feeling of fear (I was not in the learning zone, I was in the panic zone) didn’t last beyond the conversation. In fact, I was thanked several times for trying to converse in Spanish. What I ended up learning was that although my Spanish was not perfect, the locals appreciated that I was putting time into learning. By failing in these low-stake conversations, my confidence rose. Even today, I feel much more confident about choosing words to say or how to navigate conversations because I know that in reality, all my fear originates inside myself.
When I left for Peru, I thought that I was going to remain relatively uncharged during the trip. Since I had already lived through several large life events, I considered myself “mature.” I wanted to express my confidence in an entirely new place. However, what I ended up learning was that being mature is being open to change. We all change a little bit every week because the world around us is constantly changing. Being aware of this and accepting that change as an opportunity for growth is key! From speaking with several friends who have studied abroad, this is one of the major reasons they encouraged me to live in Peru: change for better.
In conclusion, I’d like to thank Aaron, Kat, and Anna for being not only amazing bosses, but also amazing friends. I’d like to thank Cameron for helping me discover the leader inside and for providing some of the greatest comic relief ever. I’d like to thank Micaela for showing me how precious alone time can be, as well as instilling in me the confidence to dig deeper in conversation. I’d also like to thank Phuyu, Anna’s dog, for making the office feel like home on even the worst days. Lastly, I’d like to thank everybody reading this! Everybody has a few short times in their lives where we can tell our stories, and it means the world to me to know somebody is listening. I look forward to sharing even more in person.