Studying abroad could not have come at a better time for me. To say it lightly, I had been through a rough eight months in the United States before I left (see here). While my goal of living and studying in Lima not only provided me with something to look forward to as I struggled with endless hours of finger therapy, more importantly, the experience itself more than lived up to all of my expectations.
While in Lima, I took full advantage of any opportunity to explore Peru, which is without a doubt one of the most culturally, geographically and biologically diverse countries in the world. Having not traveled extensively before studying abroad, in Peru I was able to experience not only life in the desert along the Pacific Coast but also the Amazon Rainforest, Machu Picchu and Peru’s stunningly high Cordillera Blanca range of the Andes Mountains.
I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, but looking back I can affirm that I more than fulfilled my two biggest goals for the semester: to fully immerse myself in Peruvian culture and to improve my Spanish fluency. Though it’s impossible to “conocer” (get to know) all of Lima in only four and a half months, I did my best, however, finding somewhere new to explore with equally adventurous friends almost every weekend I was the city. As for my Spanish, or “castellano,” it undoubtedly became easier to communicate and understand others using only my second language. My ability to write essays and think in Spanish as opposed to English also improved. On the other hand, it’s now difficult to communicate in English sometimes, but I’m sure my English speaking and writing skills will come back with time and practice.
More important to me than these goals, however, were the people I met along the journey. While in Peru, I made many new friends for life. To my IFSA-Butler gringada, I can’t wait for our meet-ups stateside. I’m going to do my best to make sure they happen. To my friends still in Peru, you already all know this, but I want nothing more than to come back to Lima and visit again “muy pronto” (very soon).
Lima, I miss you more than I thought possible. I miss the freedom I had to do what I wanted when I wanted. I even miss the combis, which as a reliably cheap public transportation option made this independence possible. I want to explore again and to be busy constantly like I was in Peru. The two weeks since I’ve returned to the US are quickly moving up the ranks among the most difficult and frustrating times in my life. My usual energy is gone. Though I didn’t get sick when I arrived in Lima, readjusting to the United States has made my stomach upset. I’m tired all the time and bored to be back in the Twin Cities. I feel like I don’t have much of a life in Minnesota anymore. Most of best friends live elsewhere in the world, and I don’t even know where places are located in my hometown anymore, let alone what fun events are happening each day. I want to explore here, but some days, I feel like I have neither a means of transportation to nor anyone to go on adventures with me like I did so regularly in Lima.
I’m taking this week day by day as it is without a doubt a repeat of the two worst weeks of my life (ironically which were also the last two weeks of July last year). After a year of living with the pain and wishing constantly that my range of motion would improve and the swelling would go down, I am having surgery on my left index finger for the second time on the morning of July 31. This marks the start of another long stretch of seemingly constant and never-ending physical therapy and the inability to use my entire left arm for a to-be-determined extended period of time. I, however, am not the same person I was when I endured this horribleness last year. Lima, you made me stronger, more confident in myself and less afraid. If I can swim in the Amazon River, climb a mountain up to an elevation of more than 15,150 feet and jump off a cliff paragliding, I can do anything. I believe in myself, and I’m going to get through this (¡again!). And, afterwards, I am confident I will be an even stronger person. Literally, that is, because hopefully I will soon be able to use my left hand normally for the first time in more than a year.
So Lima, thank you for everything. Despite your craziness, I felt at home for the past four and a half months. Instead of using Peru as something to look forward to, I now treasure the memories from my time abroad, and in the same way, they push me forward each day because my time in Peru showed me all that I am capable of achieving. And, Lima, most importantly, nos vemos pronto en el futuro. I can’t wait to hop on a plane and come back very soon!