Riley Dwyer - 2014 Program Participant

Machu Picchu ruins in Cusco, Peru.

Riley on the ruins Machu Picchu in Cusco, Peru.

Why did you decide to apply for a program in South America? 

I'd previously volunteered in Cambodia teaching English, and I was keen to head somewhere else and help out. I had previously quit university and was tired of working two I booked a ticket to South America.

What made you choose Maximo Nivel in Peru? 

I have always had a fascination with Peru and Machu Picchu! It did not let me down. The jungle is just beautiful.

What was your favorite part about living in Cusco? 

Cusco is a lovely city. The fact that it isn't a huge city makes it easy to get around and the people are very welcoming! The support from Maximo Nivel staff made my time there very easy. Also, my host family were wonderful people. We would go out for dinners or to the movies together and have some beers.

What makes Maximo Nivel a special program? 

The connections you make. I have kept in contact with a fair few of my students and especially with the staff at Maximo Nivel. They are just beautiful people with a love for what they do

How did the local staff in Cusco support you throughout your program? 

From the first day they strove to make our time in Cusco fun and unforgettable. We had a walking tour the first day which showed us parts of the city and gave us our bearings. They caught the bus with us to our work sites and always came back to check how we were doing. They also made visits to our homestays to make sure everything was going smoothly and to see if we were happy there.

What's one thing you wish you’d done differently in Peru? 

I wish I had spent more time there. Especially in the jungle. Jungle conservation is probably tied at the top for the most enjoyable week of my life. Living away from internet and just exploring jungle that not many people have touched was something you don't forget or want to leave. Also, showering in a waterfall every morning and afternoon was unbeatable.

Walk us through a typical day volunteering with Maximo Nivel in Cusco. 

I would wake up around 8 a.m. for a nice breakfast provided by the host family. From there I would catch a bus into town or somewhere around the city and go exploring. At about 12 to 1 p.m. I would head into Maximo Nivel headquarters for my daily Spanish Lesson (recommend). After my lesson I would have a lunch/afternoon snack before walking to my school to teach my lesson from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Then took a bus or taxi back to my house for dinner and sleep!

What was your favorite daily activity during the program? 

I loved Spanish Lessons. I'm going to continue learning in the future and maybe even study somewhere with Spanish as the primary language.

What type of accommodation did you have in Cusco?

I lived in a three story, four bedroom house. There were four beds in each room, and I shared with some amazing friends who I will probably remain friends with for a long time. The homestay parents were wonderfully helpful. I still keep in contact with them now and maybe one day I'll get to see them again!

How has your time in Cusco impacted your life now that it’s over? 

I've actually ventured to Canada from South America to work through a winter season. Now I have a lot of friends to catch up with in Canada and America and a couch to crash on in multiple countries across the world, due to the friendships created during my stay in Cusco!