I have now spent a week and a half in Cusco, and have adjusted to living and working in a different country and speaking a different language. The first week of my placement was a challenging experience, as it took a while to become acquainted with the city, my host family, my fellow volunteers, and the hospital staff.
Working in the emergency room of Antonio Lorena, my first challenge was to prove myself helpful to the doctors and nurses. As I mentioned before I left for my project, I was initially worried whether my Spanish skills were adequate enough for hospital work. However, I found within my first couple of days in the hospital that—although I was sometimes lost or confused—for the most part, I was able to fully communicate with the patients and staff. My next challenge was finding a way to engage the staff and start learning as much as possible. I soon found the medical interns to be very friendly and helpful, as they would point out cool cases that I should observe and answer any medical questions that I had. Therefore, after my first full week of working in the emergency room, I now feel very well-situated and hope to learn lots more in the coming weeks.
Another challenge during my first week lay in adjusting to actual life in Cusco. It took me a few days to figure out the layout of the city on my own, and I had to learn what directions to give my taxi drivers whenever I wished to return home to my apartment in downtown Cusco. Life with my homestay family also took some getting used to. Most importantly, I had to adapt to my host family’s meal schedule and learn how to get hot, running water in my personal bathroom. During my first week and a half, my host family has been very hospitable and accommodating towards me, and they have helped me plan my tourist excursions throughout Cusco and the surrounding region. The family consists of the mother, María Alicia, her brother, Cesar, and María’s two teenage children, Mahili and Shamed. There is also a volunteer from Japan staying in the apartment as well, named Hiroko.
However, the biggest challenge during my stay thus far has been overcoming homesickness. After the excitement of the first few days wore off, I found myself alone, bored, and very homesick whenever I got off work. I actively combatted these feelings by engaging as often as I could with the other volunteers in my program. During the past week and a half, the other volunteers and I have tried different Peruvian restaurants, enjoyed the night life of Cusco, and gone sight-seeing together. Overall, homesickness is/will continue to be my biggest challenge here in Cusco. However, I’m not letting it put a damper on my experience or keep me from taking full advantage of the opportunities in front of me.
— Cooper Scherr, Class of 2019