Studying abroad in Peru was one of the most influential and impactful experiences that I have ever had, and that I can without a doubt say changed my life. And yes, I know that’s what everyone says, but it really did. I think one of the main reasons is because I went somewhere that completely shifted my perspective on life and the world as I knew it. I also think that I can safely say that my study abroad experience was definitely one of the more interesting experiences. Just to hit the highlights of the more bizarre things that happened: I was on my deathbed (quite literally) in the hospital on two separate occasions (side note – always listen to others advice on what to/not to eat when traveling, especially when it comes to lettuce and mayonnaise). I hiked up to over 14,000 ft elevation. I got to explore ancient Incan ruins and found secret waterfalls off the Inca trail. I was able to finally, truly understand the meaning and feelings of culture shock. I got completely humbled by really experiencing what life is like there through doing different weekly service projects in the community. I got to bathe in natural hot springs carved out of the side of a mountain in the jungle. I got to spend the weekend on an island in the middle of the highest navigable lake in the world. But the one that really takes the cake, was the whole country being given a 24-hour notice before shutting down completely for an international pandemic, and eventually having to be evacuated by US military in charter flights two months sooner than when I was supposed to leave. The funny thing is, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I came home from Peru as a completely different person than the one I was before, in all of the absolute best ways. My wildly beautiful and indescribable study abroad experience only fanned the burning flame I have in my soul to travel the world to meet/see/experience as many people and places as humanly possible before I die.

While abroad in Peru I got to take classes such as Biodiversity of Peru and Healing and Shamanism in Andean Cultures, two classes of which I never would have taken otherwise, but both were some of the most interesting classes that I have ever taken. Especially Healing & Shamanism – not only did I gain unique knowledge, but I also deepened my cultural understanding of the country and people of Peru itself. Everything that I was able to experience in Peru opened up parts of me and feelings inside of me that I didn’t even know were there. I got to meet people from all over the world and create relationships unlike any others in my life. I now have a second family and a home away from home.

Studying abroad allowed me to live in another place and in another way that was unlike anything that I had ever known before, it gave me a change in perspective, and it allowed to see just how much of a box that I was living in that I never realized before. Yes, I went through culture shock and I won’t lie, it was tough. But I am so thankful for it. I knew that as an American, I have always lived comfortably. I wanted to be humbled, and I wanted to be able to relate to people in the rest of the world, and now I am. There is such a big world out there and it has so much to offer, more than you could ever imagine, and if you have the opportunity and capability to do so, then why wouldn’t you? My mantra in life is to make myself comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Studying abroad allowed me to take that mantra to a whole new level, and man was it incredible.

Gabrielle Lasater is majoring in International Studies and Spanish and spent part of Spring 2020 studying abroad in Cusco, Peru through KEI. Gabrielle had the following to say about studying abroad, “There is such a big world out there and it has so much to offer, more than you could ever imagine, and if you have the opportunity and capability to do so, then why wouldn’t you? My mantra in life is to make myself comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Studying abroad allowed me to take that mantra to a whole new level, and man was it incredible.”

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