Adventures in the Andes

Spanish students learn through service in Peru

The trip is over and the bags are unpacked, but nine Flagler College students just can’t stop talking about Peru. This past summer, Assistant Professor of Spanish Aggie Johnson and her students travelled to Cusco, Peru – the former center of the Inca civilization – to learn, volunteer and see the sights. The group stayed with local families and attended classes at a center known for its research on the highland people.

Most students found the service aspect of the trip especially rewarding. They built clean-burning stoves in the rural village of Huatata, and they helped construct a bathroom made of adobe bricks and mud for a school in Pongobomba. Working hand-in-hand with Peruvians turned out to be excellent Spanish practice.

Slideshow: Images from Peru

“I felt like we really contributed to the community while learning so much,” said Flagler junior Virginia Mason.

The students were impressed by the incredible work ethic of the Peruvians. In the bitter cold of the Andes Mountains, they hauled loads of bricks, peeled piles of bamboo by hand and climbed barefoot into mud and manure. At the construction site, the group quickly learned the Spanish names for words rarely used in class.

The most memorable word was “cuy,” the Spanish word for guinea pig, which gets its name from the high-pitched sound it makes. In Peru, a cuy is not a pet – in fact, cuy is a delicacy. When the group ordered cuy at a restaurant, they received a leg and foot with little toes still attached.

Classes in Cusco were slightly more traditional than the local cuisine. Peruvians taught Spanish classes, and the students were excited about their language improvement.

“I learned more in my five weeks there than in the four semesters of Spanish I’ve had here in America,” said Flagler senior Ben Haley. “I had to use the things they were teaching when I got home to my family in the afternoon … things just seemed to click there.”

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