“The program was an unforgettable experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything” – Mia
1. Why did you choose to go on this program?
I’m an Ancient Worlds major at university and in my experience, there seems to be a shortage of pre-colonial American culture studies in Australia. As such, I saw this program as an opportunity to learn about a whole field that I would never be able to at my home university. Aside from the educational aspect, I had also never travelled without my family before, so it was a really good way to take baby steps into organising things like flights on my own, while having support from AIM Overseas if I needed it.
2. How do you think this experience has shaped you?
Since coming home, I’ve felt a lot more confident in my ability to take care of myself in unfamiliar situations. The flight to Peru from Melbourne totalled to approximately 40 hours with 3 stop-overs – it was a little chaotic, needless to say. Learning to keep track of my bags and passport and to use sign language and really terrible Spanish to communicate with people was interesting too.
Now that I’m back on home ground, I tend to remind myself that I had done all that by myself, so how hard can going on my first dig, getting a new job, and planning my next trip really be?
Seeing Machu Picchu from the top of Huayna Picchu after 2 hours of dragging my unfit body up that mountain has certainly helped that perspective as well.
3. How has this program benefitted your studies?
The way Inca culture is studied is very different to how we study classical cultures because the only textual culture is from the Spaniards at the time of invasion. Due to this, we use a lot more material evidence to draw our conclusions. Some of the studies this year have been on the Minoan civilisation in Crete, which faces a similar problem with textural evidence in that we can’t read their writing. It’s been super helpful to approach the difficulties in interpreting evidence to use some of the techniques I learned in Peru. For me, learning different ways to process information has been invaluable.
4. Was there an especially funny/memorable memory from the trip?
My first glimpse of Machu Picchu will always be the most memorable and funny experience. From the bus, you walk up the last section of the inca trail, and it’s a little daunting when you’re prepared. I wasn’t expecting my first sight of the site to be that iconic image, and I just swore the moment I saw it. An American tourist then turned to me and said, “I did the same thing!” as we all stood there admiring one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
5. Tell us about the overall quality of the program
Our lecturer, Vera, was incredible to learn from. She’s an amazing woman, and incredibly engaging in her lectures. We also had a running gag about how while our tour guide was Mamma Magaly, Vera was our eccentric aunt who wanted to show us everything that she fell in love with about Peru.
The field trips were interesting and always exposed us to something new – whether that be eating a water reed or observing sacred monoliths. The course work always seemed to aim for us to engage with the culture around us and preserving our memories of each excursion, rather than just rote learning. The program was an unforgettable experience that I wouldn’t trade for anyth
6. How do you think a short course exchange program like the one you went on compares to a 6 month exchange program?
I haven’t been on a semester long exchange before, but as someone who hasn’t spent much time away from home, the shorter course definitely seemed appealing. It also meant that if you choose to, you could go travelling before and after the program, which several from our group did. It’s also a lot less expensive than a six month program.
7. Any tips or advice to other students who are considering an AIM Overseas program?
To quote Shia LaBeouf – “Just do it!. If you know that there are programs out there like AIM Overseas’ that let you study on the other side of the world and give you the opportunity to do amazing things in amazing places, all while getting credit – what excuse have you not to?