During my semester in Peru, I have decided I want to be a doctor, teacher, policy analyst, ecologist, activist, geographer, photographer…the list continues. There is a line in an old Lil Wayne song (yes, my middle school guilty pleasure) that has constantly played in my head the past four months: “The fact that you saw the world affected all your decisions.” Even from being in one different country, my choices have drastically altered. Although I still feel fairly lost as far as the professional path I want to pursue, I have developed a plethora of skills and qualities that will be useful in whatever field I ultimately choose. These are the ones that have stood out the most:
1. Foreign Language Proficiency
Obviously! Going to school, befriending locals, listening to music, reading assignments, books, listening to news—there are so many powerful ways to fully integrate into the language and learn to communicate despite barriers. This is a great way to show respect for the local culture, and not need to rely on English.
2. Awareness of Global Issues
Reading the news is a wonderful way to stay in the know, but physically being in a country and observing their struggles and triumphs is a whole different story. Even within just one month in Peru, I witnessed firsthand their education crisis. My runs by the beach exposed the exploitation of the ocean and the harmful effects on marine life, inspiring me to live more conscientiously and be aware of how each action I make affects other factors.
3. Appreciation of Diversity
Peru is home to people of so many backgrounds—Spanish, Incan, Andean, Japanese, Chinese, African—it is virtually impossible to deny the diversity this country boasts in its music, dances, cuisine, and traditions. Not just its people, but also its agriculture, flourishes from variety. There are over 3,000 different varieties of potato, and more than 55 unique types of corn. This is amazing, and has taught me to seek out diversity and utilize it however possible.
4. Open-Mindedness and Perspective
Whenever I described cultural differences to my friends and family back home, I was tempted to say things were ‘strange’ or ‘weird.’ But I soon realized that they were just ‘different.’ This open-minded approach to understanding a new culture will enhance your perspective in many ways.
This is the most important skill I attained. Living without a roommate and with an older family, I spent a lot of time alone…needless to say, much of the time it was just me, my thoughts, and I. This was very hard for me, as someone who loves being surrounded by others. But this skill is invaluable in the world for meaningful personal and professional development.
Anyone who says studying abroad is easy is lying. There are many challenges you will face, but even more lessons you will learn, experiences you will cherish, and parts of yourself you will discover and develop that will increase your professional asset tremendously.
The world awaits…discover it.