Peru: Your story is waiting to be written

Peru, one of South America’s hidden gems, is no longer a secret as toursts flock to this Spanish speaking country year-round. The land of Incas and gastronomical capital of South America has more to offer than its indisputably enchanting nature and mouth-watering cuisine. It also offers foreigners the opportunity to submerge in the Peruvian culture, way of life, and values unique to this developing Latin American country.

Chimbote, located on Peru’s pacific coast, was Austrian volunteer Mara Weiss’ destination. Peru, a large country, with rainforests, mountains, sea, and deserts, has many different landscapes and cities to visit yet Chimbote is not a popular touristic sight. ‘’As I scavenged online for information about the city I mostly got warnings not to go as it smelled like fish and was mostly an industrial city with no tourist attractions whatsoever,’’ Weiss claims. However, this didn’t stop her from wanting to explore Peru as she embarked in her long adventure anyways.

‘’I was rather nervous and insecure, but I was also curious because I’ve always wanted to go to Latin America,’’ Weiss explained. Arriving in Peru she discovered that most of her expectations were inaccurate, the city did not smell like fish and despite being a small town it was enjoyable to be there and interact with the locals.

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Weiss crossed the Atlantic Ocean to volunteer with ‘’EduAction’’, a NGO bringing students from all over the world to Latin American countries to host workshops for local kids focusing on global topics and issues, such as sustainability. ‘’We gave workshop classes to children in eight different schools, all in Spanish, which made it a challenging but outstanding experience,’’ Weiss explained. The locals appreciate this as it brings the world to them through the many volunteers visiting towns throughout Latin America. ‘’The students appreciated our work and the knowledge we shared with them as many might not travel outside of Peru and their thirst for knowledge of the outside world is immense,’’ Weiss added enthusiastically.

‘’Not only do the students learn about the world, but also about themselves while enforcing their confidence, leadership, and creativity among other skills,’’ Weiss explained. ‘’ We were like their mentors and they appreciated it as they grew comfortable around us’’ Weiss adds. The students grow as individuals and begin to think differently and creatively, an important factor for impoverished countries like Peru where children are the bright upcoming future.

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‘’During my 10 weeks in Chimbote I brought change to the classrooms of Chimbote, but I also learned from the children I interacted with,’’ Weiss said. ‘’I learned that we are all similar and that this was a unique opportunity to bring two different realities together and share experiences and time together, ‘’ Weiss added. This and the countless Peruvian sights and mouthwatering cuisine make Mara miss Peru, and long for her return.

As with most developing countries in the world, Peru is in need of volunteers that are willing to bring change in any form. Mara’s experience in Chimbote illustrates the need for volunteers in Peru and how much one person willing to spend their time and energy can really do. When it comes to helping and volunteering it is the time and energy you spend that brings the change we want to see in the world. Not only do you ameliorate a community but you also grow as a person and become a global citizen that can proudly claim ‘’I did make a change’’. So what are you waiting for? Be the change you want to see in the world, as Gandhi once said.

Author: Mauro Ortíz

The 4 seasons of Culture Shock and how to deal with them

Leaving home for an internship or to study abroad can be a stressful and exhausting experience, even though it may be something you have planned and prepared for.In fact, many people start having difficulties with the new and unfamiliar surroundings at some point – maybe you are one of them. The most important thing is to realize that your experience is actually quite normal and that there are plenty of young people who feel the same way.

What does culture shock even mean?

As TeensHealth.org defines, Culture shock describes the impact of moving from a familiar culture to one that is unfamiliar. It includes the shock of a new environment, meeting lots of new people and learning the ways of a new country. It also includes the shock of being separated from the important people in your life, such as family, friends and colleagues: people who give you support and guidance. According to an article by the University of Saint Louis, culture shock can be described as consisting of at least one of four distinct phases: Honeymoon, Frustration, Adjustment, and Mastery.

If you can relate to at least one of these stages, the odds that you might be experiencing culture shock are not that low.

Finally, here are the 4 phases you guys might be experiencing:

1. Honeymoon

During this period, the differences between the old and new culture are seen in a romantic light. Everything is new and fascinating, the food, the pace of life and the locals’ habits for example. But most likely, this stage eventually ends after a few weeks.

2. Frustration

After some time (usually around three months, depending on the individual) euphoria subsides and reality kicks in. Many people haven’t even compensated the changes that happened in their lives until now.

The most common problems people deal with include: information overload, language barrier, generation gap,technology gap, skill interdependence, homesickness (cultural), infinite regress (homesickness), boredom (job dependency).

3. Adjustment

Again, after some time (usually 6 to 12 months), one gets acquainted to the new culture and develops routines. One finds the way back to basic living, and things become more “normal”. The culture begins to feel familiar.

4. Mastery

This period is often referred to as the bicultural stage.

During this phase individuals are participating fully and comfortably in the new culture. This does not mean that you are totally converted; you have still kept your traits from your culture, such as accents and languages.

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To be honest, there is no true way to entirely prevent culture shock, as individuals in any society are personally affected by cultural contrasts differently. But there are some things that might help some of you to overcome it:

1. Keep an open mind

2. Make an effort to learn the local language

3. Make sure you get to know people in your new environment

4. Try to achieve a sense of stability in your life. (Establishing a routine will give you afeeling of safety)

5. Most importantly, maintain a sense of humor!

No worries guys, because, if you are an optimist in life like myself, there is absolutely no bad situation, circumstance or whatsoever one can’t get out of!

Author: Mara Illic