While all of my friends in Belgium still had more than a month vacation, I was already on my way to my first day of university in Peru. I had been stressing for this day for a long time, and I gotta say my Spanish still wasn’t good (well, as good as you can expect from someone who had been learning for three weeks). I could understand day to day conversation if you would be talking slowly, but to be thrown into university where they would be talking three hours in high speed about subjects i didn’t know anything about (Peruvian history!?) was really pushing it. Also, the fact that every day I would be in another class kind of scared me, because I would have to be with different people every day.
So when I arrived at the school, already late… I have to say I was adapting relatively quickly to the Peruvian lifestyle, I first had to go to the coordinator up on the seventh floor, and she led me to my class. I was introduced into the class and of course everyone was kind of surprised. They had no clue there would be a foreign exchange student coming, and I’m also the only one in the whole university. I think even the professor didn’t know I was going to be there. Either way, the professor was really nice and at the end of the class he said that if I don’t understand anything during class, I should ask him to repeat it. I was just thinking how he would have to repeat 3/4 of the whole class if I actually did that, so I just kept (and still keep) quiet most of the time.
Th next day I went to university, I entered the classroom with another professor looking surprised. I’m assuming she also didn’t know I would be showing up in her class. It’s no surprise I didn’t understand much of this course either. Later in the week I went to another class where the professor didn’t even realize I was an exchange student until she spoke to me in Spanish and it took me a little bit too long to respond in a decent way. This language barrier also makes for me just sitting and staring at everyone dumbly during group work in several of my classes. Or that one time someone shouted “I understood everything!” after one of my presentations, while someone answered “Almost everything!”
Basically, the main struggles of studying abroad in a Peruvian university are figuring out what people are trying to say (or people trying to figure out what I’m trying to say) and getting to classes on time. The latter is very hard, especially due to the fact that I’m adjusting to the “hora peruana” and the busses, who are most of the time that full I can’t even get in, aren’t really helpful either.