Thousands of miles from Pella, Iowa, eight Central students completed their spring semester with a field trip to Peru this summer.
This cultural immersion experience was led by Oscar Reynaga, lecturer of Spanish, and Paulina Mena, assistant professor of biology, for their Liberal Arts Seminar (LAS) capstone class.
Students explored ecology and history of Peru throughout the spring semester, with Mena leading ecology sessions and Reynaga teaching history and culture.
Throughout the course, students learned about the history and colonization of Peru, as well as current culture, language, plants, animals and climates within the country.
Having spent a semester learning about Peru, students were prepared to have more than a tourist experience.
While in the mountains, students stayed in homes with local families.
Many of the families lived humbly and worked as guides for the Incan trails. Their perspectives gave students a firsthand glimpse of what life is like in the mountains of Peru.
Students also visited a local school, where they distributed supplies and observed differences between Peruvian and American schooling.
Another service-learning project involved planting trees in the Andes Mountains to help with the reforestation of the area.
The group also did extensive hiking, which proved especially strenuous because of the altitude.
Students prepared for the hiking excursions during their spring semester with the help of Kalli Richardson ’14. Richardson, an exercise science major, developed a training program for her senior capstone project.
Mountain excursions also allowed students to try local delicacies, including guinea pig.
Kyle Freischlag ’14 said, “The guinea pigs were cute but tasted gamey. Not as appetizing as I would have thought.”
Students also visited the jungle and saw many native birds, butterflies and monkeys.
During the group’s visit, locals performed a ritual offering to Pachamama, a mother earth figure in Andean religious beliefs. The ceremony was conducted to bless the crops in the upcoming growing season.
Freischlag said the ceremony was an unforgettable, touching moment for students. “We did not need to share these beliefs to feel the raw emotion of the ritual,” Freischlag said. “The ceremony represented giving back all that the earth has given.”
This was the first time Mena and Reynaga have undertaken a class trip abroad. However, they anticipate that Central faculty and students will be able to take advantage of more opportunities like this in the future.