Jessie Argraves - 2012 Program Participant

Jessie and her friends making the OSU sign at Machu PIcchu.
Jessie and her friends making the “OSU” sign at Machu PIcchu.

Why did you choose ISA over other study abroad programs?  

Originally I chose ISA because of what the overall study abroad package offered. Working with ISA throughout the beginning stages was quite easy as well. I didn’t really see the benefits of choosing ISA as my study abroad program until after I had returned to the states.

Why would you choose ISA again?

After my study abroad experience was over, I found myself very glad that I chose to study with ISA. The two directors we had there were beyond welcoming, supportive, helpful and overall just a joy to be around. From the second they picked us up at the airport, I felt really comfortable being in my surroundings and knowing that I could always turn to them for help.

The first couple of days, we were in Lima for orientation and to meet the group before we took a short flight to Cusco. In fact, the first night that my friend and I were in Lima we went to see Los Vengadores (the Avengers) in Spanish with one of the directors (Haha). It was a really refreshing experience to have directors that weren’t uptight. They were very friendly and personable. By the end of our experience, our directors were more like father figures and friends.

What was one of your most memorable experiences with ISA?

The best experience I had with ISA was during those six weeks in Peru. Our directors would often plan trips for us once a week (either on a weeknight, a weekend, or both) that were educational and fun. As a group we attended a salsa lessons together, visited some Inca ruins (this included Machu Picchu among others), made traditional bracelets, and went to a mini-concert of antique Peruvian instruments. I loved all of the extra activities they had planned for us! The activities were always exciting and interesting. They really helped add to our experience and learn more about the culture in general.

As an Oklahoma State University alumni, what advice would you give to other Oklahoma State students going to study abroad in Peru?

Whether you’re an OSU student or a student from another university, the following advice is applicable for everyone! Here are some quick tips for Cusco if you choose to go there (which I hope you do!):

1. Don’t buy any souvenirs, clothes, little trinkets, anything like that for the first few weeks. The few days we spent in Lima were great but unfortunately a lot of students wasted their money on things that we later found in Cusco for one fifth of the price. Be patient, I know how hard it is to hold onto your soles when that llama sweater is calling your name (Haha). But from my experience, I saved a lot of money by checking out all of the different markets and finding the cheapest options for the exact same things my friends had bought at much higher rates. 

2. Never turn down an experience no matter how random or silly it seems. Be bold! Some of the best nights I remember having were when my host brother and sister took us out on school nights. We’d hit up random pubs/bars, go dancing, everything and anything. One time, our host brother even took us to a huge concert by a Peruvian legend (she was basically the Aretha Franklin of Peru) that was incredible and off the tourist track.

3. Don’t let the cost of the trip deter you from the overall experience. My summer program was a unique one, and because of it being in the summer it actually cost more than a full semester in Cusco. Despite the cost, I knew that I would regret not going and missing out an incredible opportunity. There are a lot of great options out there to pay for studying abroad! Overall, I paid for half of the trip with scholarships and the other half with financial aid.  

Why was Cusco the best place to study abroad in Peru?

One of the parts I enjoyed most about going to Cusco was the culture. Cusco is known as the capital of the Incas and it does not disappoint. From the middle of the Plaza Mayor to the hilltops of Cusco, there are so many things to see, do, eat, and visit. Our experience included going to Machu Picchu (it’s as magical and stunning as the pictures show – even more so in person), a few other Inca ruin sites, and various parades and festivals.

The whole month of June is a big celebration leading up to the independence day of Peru. Due to this, we literally saw dozens of parades and festivals every week we were there. One night even included fireworks and a pop band performing in the Plaza Mayor surrounded by thousands of locals.

My friend from my university, Vanessa, and I would often go dancing every weekend. And by every weekend I mean every Wednesday through Saturday (Haha). A few of the discotecas offer free Salsa lessons for a few hours before they officially open to the more freestyle dancing. We’d often get our homework and studying done right after school and then spend our nights either dancing or hitting up some local hangouts with other students. There were very little nights that we stayed in the apartment and just hung out. 

What were you two favorite classes in Peru?

The first class I took focused on romantic literature that was entirely in Spanish. Due to a strike that summer, the university had hired some professors from Spain to come and teach at Centro Tinku. Luckily one of them taught our literature class which definitely added to the experience! The class was time consuming with lots of readings and writing essays. It helped me greatly improve my writing skills.

The second class I took was taught by the University President and was called “The History of the Incas.” This class was taught entirely in English. The history class was a lot of memorizing and recalling names (as many history classes are), and although it didn’t pique my interest as much as the literature class did, I still enjoyed learning about local culture and history. Also, there were a lot of interesting group projects. One even involved us breaking up into groups and exploring different areas of Cusco that were kind of off the map…I loved exploring the countryside and hills! It included a lot of beautiful scenery.

What did you gain from studying abroad in Peru?

I am very passionate about my experience and what I gained from it. My Spanish improved tremendously, but I also experienced a personal growth. Before going to Cusco, I was very anxious and nervous about my Spanish abilities. Throughout the experience, I learned that trying my best was the most important thing. I learned to stop worrying about others judging my ability and skills. I made a lot of mistakes before, during, and after my experience but that was all part of the learning process. I feel more confident now than ever speaking Spanish to anyone I meet whether they are a native speaker or not. Studying abroad definitely instilled in me a more determined drive and spirit for the language and culture that I had not had previously.