A Challenging Adventure That Will Change Your Life Past Review

By (Psychology and Sociology, The University of Texas at Austin) - abroad from 03/10/2014 to 07/14/2014 with

Pontifical Catholic University of Peru / PUCP: Lima - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I grew so much as a person and learned a lot about myself and the world around me. It was not always easy (the culture shock was intense) but I wouldn't take back the experience for anything. If you really want to challenge yourself and mature, this is the program to do. Travel as much as possible, too!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I enjoyed all class material, but two of my classes were very unorganized. They lacked structure, and were not that difficult even though they were all taught in Spanish. None of my professors responded to email well or hosted office hours. Once class was over, the professors were pretty much out of touch with students. However, all of them were very flexible and understanding. All of my classes had timed writing for the midterms, so my professors allowed me to write in English since it was a time crunch. There are resources like the library and some tutoring, but the international office is not very helpful in navigating these resources. Local students, though, are very eager to help. If you are looking for a challenge and consider yourself an independent learner, you won't have any trouble with the classes. Three of my classes were just once a week for three hours, so less days at campus but exhausting days when I was there. All of my classes were around 25 students, so you got to really know your classmates and did a lot of group work and discussion. Side note: all classes at PUCP count attendance as a part of their grade, and usually there is only a midterm and final.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

They seemed really helpful at first, but once orientation is over, you're pretty much on your own! I had several friends complain about the lack of assistance they had received from the international office on campus. However, it forced you to figure out things on your own, which I saw as a positive.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I stayed in Jasil House, which is an international house within walking distance from the university. There were about 15 of us from Peru, Mexico, U.S., England, and Germany, and some of my closest friends were these people. Although there are nicer and safer districts to live in, I never felt unsafe or unhappy living in my neighborhood in San Miguel. I had a nice kitchen downstairs, a cleaning lady once a week, my own room with a balcony, private bathroom, microwave and fridge, and filtered water. The only downside is that I paid $440 a month, which is a steal in Austin but, as I learned, a rip off in Lima.

* Food:

Peruvian food is amazing IF you like meat, rice, and potatoes (which I do). I had a vegetarian friend there, and didn't enjoy eating out as much as the rest of us. Peruvians are very proud of their gastronomy (there are museums dedicated to it) because of their delicious spices, so if you need an icebreaker with Peruvians, ask them what they recommend to eat. Some of my personal favorites: aji de gallina, causa rellena, papa a la huancaina, and lomo saltado.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I could have tried harder to integrate in the local culture, but the international students stuck together most of the time. The problem is that there is no housing on campus, so most local students live 30 minutes away with their parents. It's difficult to meet locals unless you go the discotecas (but be wary of the bricheros and bricheras). At the clubs, Peruvians are very friendly (a little too friendly sometimes) with the foreigners. I highly recommend signing up to have a compañero, which is a local student that helps you adjust to living and studying in Lima. Mine didn't reach out to us that much, but most of my international friends that had compañeros ended up becoming really close friends with them and meeting more locals.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

UT makes you purchase health insurance while you are abroad, which luckily I didn't have to use. I only got food poisoning once, and thank goodness the doctor who did all my vaccines gave me Cipro (an antibiotic) before I left. Make sure when you go to get your vaccines (you'll need several) that you ask your doctor for a prescription to treat traveler's diarrhea. I don't know a single person that didn't get it while in Peru. My international friends complained a lot about the health clinic on campus, saying it wasn't that helpful when they had health concerns.

* Safety:

At the international student orientation, they will do a huge presentation on how to stay safe in Lima. I was terrified when I heard all of what they talked about, but they were just trying to make students cautious. It's really not as bad as traveling websites will make it out to be. That being said, being mindful is most important. Don't take taxis or walk alone at night (especially women) and don't parade your nice possessions and money around. Robbery is fairly common, especially by men on motorcycles. Be cautious about what taxi you take- I had a couple girl friends that got sexually harassed in the cabs. Just be smart and you'll be fine.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Peru is cheap, cheap, cheap! Shop at local markets and bargain always! You will save a lot of money living in Lima. Combi (transportation buses) get you anywhere in Lima for no more than a few soles and housing is usually very inexpensive. The bars are still pretty pricey, though.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $75 a week at most

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

All classes were in Spanish, but they will allow you to write in English for the exams. Immersed constantly while on campus, but Peruvians love to speak English so they usually want to practice with you.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Advanced Grammar (5th semester)
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Integrate. Meet locals. Especially if you're not living with a host family. Practicing at school isn't gonna be enough, so try to fill your social hours up with Spanish if you want to become fluent.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Traveling outside of Lima
  • Food and prices
  • The course material
* What could be improved?
  • Host Program Assistance
  • Safety
  • Better organization of the professors
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Enjoy yourself. Remain cautious. Make local friends.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Gender Psychology

Course Department: Psychology
Instructor: Adriana Godenzi-Fernandez
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This was by far my favorite class I took at PUCP. The professor was very organized and passionate about her lesson plan. I was challenged by the workload (a paper every week for the reading), but I learned so much more and didn't ever feel overwhelmed. All reading material for this class was in Spanish and we did a lot of group work in class.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Art Psychology

Course Department: Psychology
Instructor: Natalia Torres
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: All of my Peruvian classmates hated this class, but I think she went easier on the foreign students because we all had way better grades than the local students. Not much of a challenge and didn't learn that much. If you're needing a GPA booster class, this would be a good choice.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Transcultural Psychology

Course Department: Psychology
Instructor: Cinthya Diaz
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: Close to the beginning of the semester, I met with this professor to ask her if she could include more text on her ppt slides since the exchange students were having difficulty keeping up with class material since it was mainly verbal discussion in Spanish. She kindly agreed, but then never followed through. I remained pretty lost throughout the semester and had to Wikipedia the random concepts she would have on the ppts. However, if you do your own independent studying this way, you will actually enjoy the material and do fine grade-wise.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Motivation and Emotion

Course Department: Psychology
Instructor: Lennia Matos
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: Lennia speaks VERY fast (even local students say so). She is a tough grader, but she is an accomplished researcher and extremely knowledgable over the material. Some of the readings (multiple every week) are in English and can be interesting if you really psychological research. There is a 2 hr lecture and then a 2 hr "practica" class to go over readings with a T.A. A lot of group work in the practica. The workload was definitely intense for this class. In addition to studying all the readings and lectures for the midterm and final, we had to write papers and create presentations.
Credit Transfer Issues: