Hello everyone, and welcome to my last Peru related blog update! After reading this you should have a fairly good idea about what the Lima study abroad program is like. Hopefully, this will be useful in the future for any students who are thinking of studying abroad. In this final update I will discuss my experiences with the city and the locals.
First off, the city of Lima is massive. It a sprawling metropolis of about 8 million people built in a costal desert. Overall I found the city rather disorganized (especially their public transit system, which is all privately run and based on being able to randomly encounter the specific bus that you need at the time you need it as they do not run on any sort of a schedule) and ugly (most of the buildings are either made of cinder blocks or cement and are are made in a bizarre geometric architectural style, with the exception of dilapidated colonial era buildings), with the rather large exception of the Mirraflores and Larco Mar districts (two of the richest in the country), which are located near the ocean and some truly lovely beach front and touristic areas. The traffic is also insane and expect to see at least one person get hit with a car or kidnapped or something in the middle of the road while you are there. Also, just like in any other city, you must be careful what areas you wander into, especially if you are alone. The problem is, most of the areas look fairly similar, regardless of whether or not they are safe or not (with the exception of the shanty towns which, obviously, look like shanty towns), and thus, it is best to exercise caution while walking through the city and know where you are.
Next, I shall discus the locals. Just like in any other city you must be careful where you go as there The majority of people who you interact with on a daily basis will be able to instantly tell that you are a foreigner, and thus either attempt to impress you with their ability to recite a few phrases in broken English, or attempt to overcharge you for something. Unfortunately, if you attempt to communicate with them in English, many of the less affluent ones (like transportation workers, street vendors, etc.), will be completely unable to understand what you are saying, and are rather difficult to understand themselves due to strong accent and dialectical differences. Furthermore, standards of etiquette are somewhat different there. If you are a woman, the men will make no effort to hide the fact that they are constantly eyeing you, and often times enjoy leaning out of passing cars to whistle, make cat calls, or say something vulgar/sexual.
Next, I shall discuss the local students. Most of them were very friendly and easy to talk too. Many are somewhat curious about wherever it is that you came from and will ask you questions about the US and your home town. There is, however, a distinct difference between how they act towards men and women. If you are a man, most of the natives will lose interest in you shortly after meeting you and you must really make an effort to become friends with anyone The general exception being that if you are friends with any female exchange students, they will invite you to functions in the hopes that you will bring you female friends with you. If you are a girl, however, if you are attractive (or at least white), you will have hordes of local men competing for you affections. I have heard that depending on whether or not you enjoy this sort of thing it is either quite annoying or great.
Also, in a special side not to any African-American students who may be reading this, I must say that there are very few blacks in Lima Peru, especially at the PUCP (the university at which we studied). I only saw two other black student during my 5 months there, and both of them were also exchange students. We are, most definitely, somewhat of an anomaly within the university and this, sadly, will probably make it more difficult to integrate yourself into university social life (I feel like it did for me) and result in your feeling somewhat out of place while there.
This concludes my round of of my semester in Peru. I hope that you have all found it helpful and informative. All of the opinions in this blog are based on my own personal experiences in the country and therefore, obviously, cannot be extrapolated to every student who as ever studied there. Though I did not particularly enjoy the program, there are many other students from IU who did and some who even decided stay for a second semester.
Until next time,