Diverse Cultural Exposure: Students Reflect on Service Learning Trip to Peru

LVC students participate in a service learning trip in Peru

International service learning trips open a whole new perspective to students who do not usually find themselves encountering extreme cultural immersion. On May 16, 14 students and two faculty advisors set off for a week in Peru where they worked with the Misminay community. It is the second LVC group to participate in this high-impact experience, with the first group visiting in 2014.

On the first day, the students arrived to Cusco, Peru where they settled in for the evening and explored the city. It was the second day that students jumped into the Peruvian culture by learning about and working with the people of the Misminay village. Throughout the week, the students worked with families, individuals, and children to gain knowledge about their community, observe their practices, and learn from the experiences they encountered. 

Many cultures worldwide have resources and systems available that enable self-support. However, the Misminay community relies on substantial economic support from outside organizations and groups, including from the LVC community. The last student group to visit the community was the first group of LVC students who went on the trip two years ago.  

While in Peru, students on the trip spent three days at the local elementary school located at the bottom of the village. Each day, they hiked down the mountain and instructed the children on different subjects, which included teaching English through music, organizing activities about recycling and sustainability, explaining hygiene, and aiding the children with better study techniques. They also organized sporting events, put together puzzles, and assembled crafts with the children. 

“These kids are so talented, but are held back by the lack of resources and opportunities they are given” explained Kylie Rank-Delaney ’19. Cheyenne Emerich ’18 similarly observed the students while working with them. “I have never seen a child’s face light up more with curiosity when given the opportunity to learn than I have in Peru. We live in a world where we are so easily distracted by what we don’t have, that we forget to be thankful for the simple things we do have.”

During the afternoons, LVC students participated in cultural and agricultural sessions. They assisted with every day work such as constructing Andean bricks called adobes, which are used to build homes. They also learned about the techniques of weaving with naturally dyed sheep and alpaca wool. Students were astonished by the pure use of natural resources by the Peruvians. “Little did I know how much I would come to appreciate the simplicity of the lives of the people in the village of Misminay, Peru,” expressed Michael Butcher ’18. 

It was a transformative learning experience for many of the LVC students. “A number cannot be placed on the value of the lessons that I learned not only of another culture, but also of my own culture, and of myself,” said Kali Rodgers ’17. 

While spending time in the village, the students observed how influential each member of the community is and how they all help each other. “It is amazing to see how much the village relies on the earth for food and how much they rely on each other,” shared Ian Lloyd ’18. 

For Anna Quinn ’17, this trip was not her first time visiting the village of Misminay. In 2014, she was among the first group of students to participate in this international service learning program. This time, Quinn took on the role of a student leader, making sure that her peers were adjusting well and having fun. “When they asked me to be a student leader on this trip, I totally couldn’t let that slip by,” explained Quinn. “I just loved the village we were in when we went last time, and I had to go back. I wanted to see how much the kids had grown, as well as the expansion of the village itself.” Quinn also helped break the language barrier by serving as a translator for both groups.. 

An international service learning trip is a global educational opportunity to gain knowledge of those around the world. Daniel Rotella ’17 reflected on his experience abroad. “I believe proper global engagement helps create acceptance and understanding so that one people or culture does not become dominated by another. Instead, there is a mutual mingling that can create new and unique subcultures. The world is much more interesting as a varied and vibrant place.”

The 14 students who participated included Michael Butcher ’18, Cheyenne Emerich ’18, Olivia Fagan ’18, Rachel Foster ’19, Korissa Herrold ’17, Megan Kimmel ’17, Ian Lloyd ’18, Miranda Milillo ’16, Abigail Nicholas ’17, Anna Quinn ’17, Kylie Rank-Delaney ’19, Kali Rodgers ’17, Daniel Rotella ’17, and Rachel Shaffer ’19. They were accompanied by Dr. Gabriela McEvoy, professor of Spanish, and Rev. Dr. Paul Fullmer, College chaplain and director of service and volunteerism.