Peru: Rustic but an amazing experience Past Review

By (Archaeology/Spanish, University of Wisconsin - LaCrosse) for

Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash / PIARA: Hualcayán - Archaeological Field School

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I feel like I learned so much through this experience, not only about archaeology but about a different culture and way of life. It's given me an new perspective. I made some great friends and great contacts for the future. It has given me a drive to continue with South American archaeology and hopefully continue to work on this project in the future or explore a new project. It confirmed to me that I'm on the right track and that this is what I want to do.

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 completed my "field methods in archaeology" course (ARC 402) through this program. I got to do a lot of hands on work as part of an archeological investigation in the Ancash region, opening up test units and learning the methods of excavation through hands-on experience. Most of the time was spent working in the field. We had a few reading assignments and lectures but they didn't make up a substantial portion of our time, and we didn't spend time in a classroom. We had several demonstrations and most of the teaching was done through hands-on work and practical application. We presented the results we found so far in our individual operations (units) at the end of the session to the rest of the group and the director of the project. Although we were affiliated with UNASAM we didn't take classes there, because all our work was in the field. That is just the institution our credits came from. The grading system was rather vague as we never got a rubric. It was more subjective, based on our effort and attitude throughout the project as well as our presentations at the end. The transfer process is also a lot more involved and lengthy from a foreign institution than a U.S. one.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our director and staff were very knowledgeable and passionate about the host country and helping us to experience the culture. We were a large group of about thirty (22 students and about 8 staff) which was possibly too large, because it was difficult to get everyone on the same page and took a lot of time to coordinate everyone and actually get something done. There were quite a few delays, which is inevitable when working in a foreign country and in a remote location, but it was frustrating nonetheless. The director seemed to be juggling a lot of things so when we or one of the other staff members had a question a lot of times we had to wait or work around the problem until we got an answer. But we learned flexibility and everyone worked through the snags. The staff were great at persevering and making sure that the students were listened to and that the project was continuing.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We stayed in hostels while in Lima, Caraz, and Huaraz. However, when in Hualcayan where we spent the majority of our time, we were living in a small, remote community. We had three rooms, one for guys, one for girls and one for staff. It was rustic conditions as the rooms were bare and we slept on sleeping bags and mats. We had running water and boiled our water for drinking. We had latrines and the showers, but unless you heated up water yourself they were cold. We also did our laundry by hand most of the time. As long as you're prepared to live simply and without a lot of amenities as I was, it worked out well for having so many people in such a small space. Our director sent out a list of things to bring/buy which was incredibly helpful in preparing. We bought toiletries in Lima, before we went to the site, because at Hualcayan there were only a couple little shops that sold snacks and such. We were only a five minute walk from the dig site which was great, but there's definitely not much nightlife. As we got up at 6 am everyday we were usually inside by 9 or 10 due to tiredness and the cold. But we had some fun nights as well and got to experience some cultural traditions.

* Food:

We had a cook, and we all took turns helping with dinner chores. The food was very hearty but there was not a lot of variety as there was limited supplies of what we could bring. There were a couple vegetarians and Javier, our cook, tried to accommodate them. We ate a lot of carbs and starch (potatoes, rice, beans, lentils, etc.)

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We went to the Museo de Arqueología, Antropología, y Historia in Lima. We visited an archaeological site near Caraz. We also went to a National Park on the way to Huaraz and a set of hot springs near Huaraz. We also had the opportunity to attend a school celebration in Hualcayan and a wedding as well which was a unique experience.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

The area is pretty safe, although it's always a good idea to walk around with another person. In Hualcayan I always felt safe walking around, but I did have my camera stolen. A lot of people had stomach problems at some point but nothing really major (except one person because she took too many anti-biotics). I did have to go to the hospital, which was kind of an ordeal because they didn't have the resources in Huaraz so I ended up going to Lima (10 hours away from our base location). It was a little stressful but I had someone from Lima with me, who had contacts with one of the doctors and was able to get me in right away and help me navigate the process. There are a lot of different places you have to go within the hospital and lots of lines you have to wait in as well as lots of mixed advice from different doctors, so it was great to have a local there to help me. I had a lot of support throughout the whole process.

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


* 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)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? when in the cities you're responsible for paying for hostels as well as most of your food. This was written in the information packet, but I didn't realize the accomodations were only paid for while in Hualcayan. But food is very cheap.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
Language acquisition improvement?

All of the participants were English-speakers, although most of the staff could speak Spanish. There were a few archaeology students from UNASAM that were working with us for a couple weeks so I could practice with them, as well as when I was out in the city, but amongst ourselves we only spoke in English because many of the participants didn't know Spanish, so it wasn't that helpful in improving language skills.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Hostel
  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Local Students

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • the people I met
  • the hands-on work
  • living in a small community
* What could be improved?
  • running more smoothly and more delegation of tasks
  • better coordination to inform everyone of the plan and keep them on task
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? There's a lot of challenging aspects to this program, but it's a great experience for those who are passionate about archaeology and want a down-to-earth and budget-friendly program for their field school. Be prepared to roll with the punches and you will have an amazing experience, both in learning more in the field and meeting fantastic people. It will be one that you'll be talking about a long time after!

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Field Methods in Archaeology

Course Department: ARC 402
Instructor: Rebecca Bria
Instruction Language: English
Comments: We did a lot of hard work, spending up to 8 hours in the field Monday through Friday excavating, and sometimes on Saturday. In addition we sometimes had lectures on Saturdays or Sundays. I felt the work really gave me a good picture of what field work in archaeology was like. The staff were really knowledgeable and easy to work with, although there were a lot of delays and some confusion between staff. There was a lot of student participation because we were working out in the field every day, so I got a lot of practical experience. We also visited some museums and archaeological sites elsewhere, in Lima and near Caraz and Huaraz.
Credit Transfer Issues: It takes a while to get the transcript and for the transfer process, moreso than a domestic university. My transcript was just sent a week ago to my home university. Just be patient and make sure you have the time and it will get there.