Local Boston InterExchange Grant Recipient Reconnects With Family History in Peru

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Local Boston counselor volunteers in Peru after winning an InterExchange grant and discovers her father's country and her own heritage.

I am trying to live a more Peruvian-lifestyle which means all sorts of things: taking my time; not complaining so much; and really appreciating everything around me and where it comes from.

"Ever since I was little, I knew I was going to visit Peru someday – it was simply a question of when," stated Erika V., a 2011 recipient of the InterExchange Working Abroad Grant.

InterExchange awarded Erika, now working in Boston, a grant for the work she did with the blind in the Cusco region of Peru. After an intensive month of Spanish classes so she could better communicate with the local villagers, Erika spent her afternoons teaching English to blind adults at the school El Union de los Ciegos in the small, developing town of San Sebastian.

Describing her work as the "single most rewarding experience while in Peru," she and her students collaborated during their sessions, which allowed her to better understand her students' needs. Using this method, her class quickly began to retain basic English phrases and words within her first month there.

Executive Director of InterExchange, Christine La Monica-Lunn, explained that Erika's experience abroad is a perfect example of how spending time abroad can change a person for the better.

"One of the main goals of the InterExchange Foundation is to help young people experience the mutual sharing and understanding of cultures." said La Monica-Lunn. "After spending time immersed in a community abroad, our grant recipients return home knowing that they can impact their communities and are often inspired to use this knowledge in other professional endeavors."

Erika experienced this shift in world view and personal interactions herself.

"I loved the relaxed nature of being in South America. My teachers, students, and other Peruvians I met were always saying 'Poco a poco', meaning 'Little by little',” said Erika. "This was very helpful for me, as I need to remember to slow down and be patient with myself. You can’t accomplish everything you want overnight, and this is a healthy reminder to take things day by day."

After she'd completed her graduate studies, Erika, whose father was born and raised in Lima and passed away in 2009, decided to make the leap and explore her family roots in Peru. In addition to the teaching work, she was able to use the time in her father's country to focus on improving her Spanish and to continue writing a memoir she'd started at the time of her father's death.

While Erika's desire to live in and experience another culture firsthand was influenced by many personal motivations, it also reflects a growing trend. Many younger people are placing a higher value on gaining more international exposure. Erika and many of her peers have prioritized going abroad over finding a job immediately once they've graduated.

For her, both the cultural and self-understanding made her trip to Peru one of the most worthwhile experiences of her life. "I learned a lot about myself in my time away and definitely gained a new sense of independence. I have a new interest in blind culture and can imagine myself working with this population someday," says Erika. "I am trying to live a more Peruvian-lifestyle which means all sorts of things: taking my time; not complaining so much; and really appreciating everything around me and where it comes from."

To find out more about InterExchange Foundation grants, visit our website at http://www.InterExchange.org/foundation. *Our Working Abroad grants for InterExchange Working Abroad participants have rolling deadlines throughout the year and our next Christianson Grant deadline is July 15, 2012*. Please visit our website for more information about "InterExchange Working Abroad programs":http://www.InterExchange.org/working-abroad.

InterExchange is a non-profit organization committed to improving international understanding by facilitating life-changing, exceptional cultural exchange experiences for young people, businesses and families around the world. As both a J-1 Visa sponsor designated by the U.S. Department of State and a cross-cultural ambassador, we develop meaningful relationships with participants from more than 60 countries as well as with international recruiting partners, host employers and families. We ensure that all in our community are treated with respect and consideration, guided by staff with first-hand experience living and working abroad and more than 40 years of leadership in the industry. Visit us at: http://www.InterExchange.org
Media Contact:
Ron Hernandez
Director of Marketing and Communications
InterExchange, Inc.
161 Sixth Avenue
New York, NY 10013
917.305.5460
rhernandez(at)interexchange(dot)org

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