Despite taking eight years of Spanish classes, Victoria Nied quickly found herself marooned on a linguistic island when she arrived at her host family’s home in Peru.
“I realized just how much I didn’t know about the language,” said Nied, 21, of Murrysville.
Nied spent the spring 2018 semester at various locations throughout Peru as part of Gettysburg College’s study-abroad program.
“We were studying the differences between indigenous groups in southern Peru,” said Nied, who is pursuing a double-major in globalization studies and organizational management. “We’d do a week in the classroom, then do a weeklong excursion.”
Nied spent a week in the Amazon rain forest, visiting with three indigenous groups “to see how they live day-to-day as opposed to just reading about them in a classroom.”
Nied and fellow students examined how indigenous groups fit into modern Peruvian society, and how they are treated by the Peruvian government.
Nied said the Amazon was different from any place she’d ever been.
“We had to go and buy rain boots, wear long sleeves and pants and I had 100 percent DEET spray for the bugs,” she said. “It was really amazing to be able to meet people who live there.”
Nied stayed with a host family in Cuzco — once the capital of the Inca empire — and said that experience also helped with the language barrier.
“It would have been really different if I was living in an apartment with other students from the U.S.,” she said. “I felt like I had a good ‘in-and-out’ of the culture because of that.”
This school year, Nied will undertake a research project in an attempt to expand her study-abroad work.
“We’re going to look at how minority groups fit into global processes now, so I’m trying to take what I did in Peru and expand that, because you don’t always find small indigenous groups everywhere,” she said.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.