Senior Theater and Latin American, Latinx, and Caribbean Studies Major Mayra Gurrola-Calderon is spending her Fall semester of 2019 in the Republic of Peru—the South American home of the Amazon rainforest, Machu Picchu, and the ancient Inca empire.
Gurrola-Calderon chose to study in Peru because the country’s Latinx heritage closely and deeply relates to her field of study and her own identity as a Latin American.
“I wanted to study abroad in a Latin American country because of the complex and intensive history it holds, and, as a Latin American myself, I wanted to know more. I wanted to step out of the United States bubble of labeling every Latin American as a Mexican, and actually learn about other cultures. So I picked Peru because of its history,” Gurrola-Calderon said.
What motivated Gurrola-Calderon to study away included not only the historical and cultural heritage that stimulates her intellectual curiosity but also her willingness to challenge her own limits and put herself out into the global context.
“I knew I wanted to study abroad when I arrived in college because I felt I didn’t have a comprehensive knowledge of the global world. With this in mind, I knew I needed to venture outside of the four walls I had become accustomed to in Minnesota and learn more about the different cultures and people who have preceded me,” Gurrola-Calderon said.
Moreover, studying abroad means even more to the senior who is also a first-generation college student.
“As a first-generation student in my family, I wanted to make it possible to acquire knowledge through travel. I have continually entered rooms not meant for me and experienced situations my family members were not afforded the opportunity to, and if I can be able to continue to do so, I will,” Gurrola-Calderon said.
Stepping out of her comfort zone, Gurrola-Calderon certainly experiences multiple challenges on top of the opportunities that the trip offers.
“I had a flight cancellation that made me arrive a day later, so I was exhausted, excited, and overwhelmed all at the same time,” Gurrola-Calderon said.
In recounting the favorite activities in Peru, the senior finds something she loves in every single one of them.
“Ever since I’ve been in Cusco, I have had the opportunity to do life changing things. I have visited Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and Lake Humantay. But beyond traveling, I’ve been able to participate in different restoration projects that one of my professors has been in charge of and also community service in surrounding communities around the provinces of Cusco,” Gurrola-Calderon said.
Besides trouble with flights and airports, the most difficult aspects for Gurrola-Calderon are the moments of homesickness, during which she wishes she had had her parents by her side.
Something that Gurrola-Calderon wished she would have packed more of would be sweaters and pants.
“Here in Cusco, it can be very sunny outside but our classrooms don’t have heating so it can get really extremely cold inside,” Gurrola Caulderon said.
What the senior misses most about campus is the Arboretum, her friends and the organizations she is involved in.
Before going home, Gurrola-Calderon has exciting travel plans after her coursework is over.
“Before I get home, I am visiting my family for the first time in Mexico and I am so excited for the food, hot peppers, and my family,” Gurrola-Calderon said.
Gurrola-Calderon considers studying abroad a grand step out of her own comfort zone and encourages other Gusties to look for resources to make this experience accessible to themselves.
“Never be afraid to ask for help in any of your concerns or questions. If you are on the fence, go to the study abroad office and bring them your questions because something I learned from own process was that asking for help was incredibly liberating,” Gurrola-Calderon said.
Gurrola-Calderon appreciates this journey as a whole for allowing her to gain a global perspective on issues that humanity deals with every day.
“With this opportunity, I believe that, in the long-term, this has given me the ability to learn and expand my knowledge in global terms and enabled me to understand the importance of history and education.
In general, studying abroad has also affected the idea of stories and the way people hold on to them to survive or live,” Gurrola-Calderon said.