Cuzco Advice from an Alumnus

Kids_CuscoWhat to expect for those who have no idea what to expect: Cuzco, PeruI spent my first semester abroad feeling spoiled at beautiful Regents College in London, so I’d be lying if I said I had no apprehensions about a summer in Cuzco, Peru.   I now know I had nothing to worry about and easily fell in love with Peru, but here are a few ideas on what to expect:Expect altitude sickness to really not be that bad, typically. – Before I left for Cuzco, I was convinced that, despite the many reputable websites that say altitude sickness is usually nothing major, my first few days would be spent gasping for air. Not the case. At all.My first day off the plane I felt fine; went for a long walk, explored a little.  The 2nd day I woke up with a nasty headache and an achy body. One hour and a few cups of mate de coca later, and I was good to go.  No doubt you too will come to understand why the Andean people hold this leaf so sacred.Expect for the weather to be opposite from back home. Cuzco has two seasons, Rainy and Dry. Rainy season lasts from November- March and is typically quite warm.  Dry season consists of hot days, very cold nights, and lasts from April-October.Expect to form a relationship with your host family. –One of my professors pointed out, in comparison to North American families, Peruvians tend to spend much more time together at home.  This was most evident when it came to meal time.  Meals in our house would go on for hours, my host mother, father, brother and I always finding new things to talk about.The majority of the ASA host families consist of older women who truly enjoy the company of a new student.  My host family showed me new locations and things I never would have found otherwise.  Occasional coffee Skype chats with my host mom have become one of my favorite things about returning home.Expect to be offered a different cuisine. Lomo saltado, anticucho, ceviche, guinea pig!? All are typical Peruvian dishes.  Give it a try! Just be careful, our stomachs can’t always handle all these new tastes at once.Expect to do some shopping. Peru is a place where the exchange rate definitely works in our favor.  With such cheap prices, it’s easy to find that perfect gift for everyone back home. Just remember to heed the advice of Laura Beth or you’ll need an extra suitcase to carry all those alpaca scarves and sweaters back home.Expect to experience a new dialect. As Vickie noted from her experience in Buenos Aires, Not all Spanish is created equal!  Peruvians consider their Spanish to be very pure and simple.  However several communities still speak Quechua, an indigenous dialect sacred to the Andes.  With more than 25 varieties, it is a fascinating language.Expect to go on some AMAZING excursions:cuzco Enough said.