The Study Abroad Newsletter

Discovering the Inca Country

Hillary Ake
Universidad de Piura, Peru

I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say Peru has it all. From some of the tallest mountains in the world, to the vast desert coastline and to the deep, thick Amazon rainforest. But the amazing variety in this country isn ́t just in the terrain. There are so many different indigenous cultures, languages, festivals and music. The food here varies in every city you go to. It is hard to believe that all of this can fit into just one country. But there is one thing that is constant throughout Peru: the hospitality and generosity of the people.

Before I came to Peru, I honestly did not know much about it. I just wanted to learn how to speak Spanish. I travelled here with my friend Adam Wilson. We decided to come here a month before our school started to explore the country before we had to settle down in one city. I knew before hand that the waves are really good in this country, so Adam and I spent that first month just travelling along the coast looking for waves. The beaches here are beautiful and sometimes very isolated, so there aren’t many people, but the water is cold!

After our month long surf trip we finally arrived to our new home of Piura, a small city in the northern part of Peru. It’s about one hour away from the coast and it is in the desert. It is really hot! I lived with a Peruvian family, the Valladares, who have two sons, a daughter and another student from Belgium. My Peruvian mother, Marina, is one of the most amazing women I have ever met in my life. She is kind, intelligent, and understanding. She is the principal of an elementary school by my house. She is a well respected woman in this city and I feel so lucky to have her as a mother. She has made me feel like part of the family.

The university I have been studying at is called the Universidad de Piura. It has a beautiful campus and great professors. Everyday I have a Spanish classes and I also help in the English classes with the Peruvian students. I have made a lot of friends helping out in the English classes.

One of my favourite foods in Piura is Ceviche. It’s raw fish marinated in lime juice. It is then mixed with onions, hot peppers, cilantro and salt. It’s usually served with sweet potatoes, corn and beans. They have different variations of ceviche all over the country, but my favourite kind is from the northern coast. Another one of my favorite foods is Anticuchos. It’s cow heart marinated in spices and then barbequed. At first I was a little scared to eat it, but once I tried it, I fell in love. It is delicious.

Hillary under the Amazon canopy

One of the best experiences I have had here was my trip to the Amazon jungle. I had a two week break from my school and went on a five day tour through the National Reserve Pacaya Samiria. It was beautiful. I saw monkeys, a sloth, a ton of birds, fresh water dolphins, turtles, crocodiles, amazing butterflies, snakes and a lot of bugs! I went fishing everyday and learned about many different medicinal plants of the rainforest. I also went to the city of Iquitos. It is the largest city in the world that can’t be reached by road. It is surrounded by a lot of lakes to swim in and has an entire market that floats on the river.

I have been having an amazing time here in Peru. At first I was so scared to travel in a foreign country, but this trip has been really empowering. I feel like I can now go anywhere in the world. If I had advice for anyone wanting to study abroad, I would say, be smart, safe and remember that it is a once in a lifetime chance. When I first arrived I felt really home sick, but then I realized that I am so lucky to have this opportunity and I need to enjoy it! Now I have made great friends and done some pretty incredible stuff. Now I am ready to travel the world.

Hillary holding up the catch of the day