Daan's Exchange in Peru April 7th, 2017
While I was flying to Lima, I was already fantasising about the beautiful weather it was supposed to be there. I had heard that South America was supposed to be hot all year long and therefore I had mostly packed shorts and t-shirts. Imagine the surprise while showing up at the first day of “Language School”, seeing everyone in sweaters, trousers and even some hats. Never have I been so wrong in my life. In all the preparations that I had made, I never even thought about the inversion of the seasons below the equator. Thankfully from then onwards, it would only get better, but luckily, I brought a coat!
As a sharp reader might have already noticed, I did a language course before entering Universidad del Pacífico (UP). Because practically no one in South America speaks any decent amount of English, I deemed it necessary to get close and familiar with the language and followed the four-week course. Little did I know, unfamiliar with the “mañana” culture, that this four-week course would boil down to two weeks and that there were two weeks of holidays in between. Welcome to South America! It gave me the possibility though to go on my first trip, so in those two weeks I went to the Swiss of South America, Huaraz.
The university was privately owned and pretty decent. The most interesting course that I took was Risk Management and Analysis, taught by a Wall Street veteran from Moody’s. The rest were mostly fun courses because I didn’t expect to learn that much on a professional level over there anyways. However, I did take two of my courses in Spanish to get more fluent in the language.
Life in South America is not like anything in Maastricht. It is full of contrast though. While every Latino/a is taking things very easy and casually enjoying life, traffic is more chaotic than 8:30am at the Inner City Library during exam week. Everything is cheap if you know where to buy it. You can go to the “richer” supermarkets and pay the same price as here, or you can go to the local markets and get your supplies for half the price. I lived in a beautifully placed apartment overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with the best burger place I have ever eaten in, a small market, a nice coffee place and the bus stop all within five minutes walking distance. The apartment was located in a safe area of Lima, Miraflores, so I could easily walk on my own at night.
Speaking about nights: nightlife. Wow. Lima is full of bars and clubs. Although I expected to only find reggaeton and salsa venues, there were surprisingly many techno or mainstream clubs. Obviously, they did not only play the Top 40 from the Netherlands, but there were definitely some similarities. Beer prices were normal and closing times were around 6am. Although I visited some salsa bars during my stay, I only learned salsa dancing when I travelled to Cuba after my exchange. Also, there are many opportunities to go surfing in Lima. I went two to three times per week, so I actually progressed a lot over time. It is a nice workout if you don’t feel like hitting the gym.
Peru itself is a beautiful country. One of the most underestimated countries in the world, in my opinion. I think everyone has heard of Machu Picchu, the recently discovered old Inca town/world wonder and the Nazca lines, but there is so much more to see and do. Whether you want to go sandboarding and ride a buggy in the desert near Ica, want to go surfing on the longest waves in the world near Huanchaco, go on a three-day adventure deep in the Amazon in Iquitos, see the real Paramount pictures mountain in Huaraz or, my personal favourite, walk up the Montaña de Colores near Cusco. There is so much to do in just this country that I only visited Bolivia for one day and did the infamous Death Road before returning to Peru and continued my journeys through that country.
Looking back, I had a great time in Lima. I met interesting people, got to know a beautiful country with its culture and learned a new language! South America, hasta la próxima!