By Yuveen Suresh, SMU School of Economics
South America—a continent that has always evoked a sense of mystique to me. Images of the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu, the stunning Salar De Uyuni, and the pristine Caribbean beaches cross my mind when I think of the continent. I was overjoyed when I found out that SMU has partner universities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. From the onset, I had set my mind on applying for an international exchange opportunity in one of these countries.
After extensive research on the countries and universities available, along with input from friends who have participated in programmes at these universities, my decision to apply for Universidad del Pacifico (UP) was a relatively easy one. UP is one of the premier Business Schools in South America with a wide variety of courses and support provided to the international students. Also, as a budding centre of innovation and a fast-growing economy; Peru, and in particular Lima, is becoming a destination of choice for expats should they choose to relocate to South America. Furthermore, being almost in the middle of the entire continent, Peru provided ease of travel to other capital cities and popular destinations within the continent. Finally, I felt that I could not pass on the chance to reside in the country where Machu Picchu (along with a host of other amazing sites) was located. All these factors combined made UP and Lima my choice destination for an international exchange adventure.
Nature at its finest at Laguna 69, Huascaran National Park, Peru
And now to address the elephant in the room—safety when living in South America. In my opinion, personal safety is simply a matter of common sense. Exercising discretion when it comes to visiting potentially risky areas, not flashing valuables in the open, and simply remaining vigilant, will allow one to almost always remain safe. From my personal experience, I have never felt any more in danger in Lima, or in any other part of South America, than I have in Singapore. I believe that the unfair reputation the continent has gained with respect to safety is due to the portrayal by the media rather than the actual situation. Granted, very few places in the world offer the same degree of security as Singapore. However, from my experience, safety in South America is not vastly different from the developed cities in Europe or North America.
One of the most enriching parts of my international exchange experience would be the “homestay” experience. For my accommodation, I lived with a Peruvian family, along with four students. The amalgamation of different cultures under one roof was truly a remarkable experience. From attempting to learn Spanish in order to communicate effectively with our host family to understanding their local customs and seemingly mundane trips to the local fruit market, these were all important to localising, rather than simply being a guest in a foreign country. Living with other international students also provided me with a greater understanding of the different aspects of the world that we live in and allowed for newfound friends—of which, I would not have otherwise experienced back home.
Weekend out at a local country club with my “Peruvian Family”
As mentioned above, UP is one of the most renowned business schools in this part of the world. There are a wide variety of Finance, Marketing, Economics and Social Sciences courses available in English, with a classroom approach that is very similar to that of SMU. The courses I took offered an insightful learning experience with an approach geared towards understanding Latin America better (not neglecting the global aspect, of course). This provided an interesting contrast to the system in Singapore, where the focus is very rarely on this part of the world.
Finally, much of one’s term-long student exchange is made up of the experience of travelling and seeing new places. South America offers a seemingly never-ending mix of attractions—ranging from bustling metropolis to nature—to gawk at. I was fortunate enough to travel as far as Buenos Aires and venture out to seemingly impossible treks where I encountered sights that are simply out of this world!
The sights and attractions available in Peru and South America is seemingly endless and I would hazard to say that 5 months of travelling is simply not long enough to take it all in. So if you’re thinking of heading over to South America, plan your time wisely to experience as much as possible!
Celebrating Singapore’s 52nd National Day at the breathtaking Montaña de Siete Colores at 5,200m above sea level.
Peru and South America has truly been a one-of-a-kind experience. The friendships forged, memories made and experiences will last me a lifetime. Without the opportunity offered by SMU, I do not believe I would ever have been fortunate enough to live in a part of the world so far removed from Singapore for 5 months. For now, adiós a Sudamérica, ha sido maravillos.
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