Inside USD

Rashmi Chugani, Peru

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The University of San Diego’s annual All Faith Service is Thursday, Feb. 2 at 12:15 p.m. in Shiley Theatre. The campus community comes together for a diverse experience through faith traditions. Several USD international students will serve as flag-bearing representatives of their respective countries. Inside USD chose five students and asked them to share insights about their home country and their USD experience.

Where were you born?

I was born in Lima, Peru, the country’s capital.

How long have you lived in Peru? Do you visit during school breaks? Will you return to live there after you finish school?

I have lived in my country for 21 years now. I still live in Lima during school breaks; however, I hope that I can get a job in San Diego or anywhere in the United States after I graduate because I would like to live here.

What are some fond memories of Peru?

My fondest memories revolve around my school years. Unlike Americans, Peruvian students often go from kindergarten to grade 12 with the same class. That is, we do not divide elementary from middle school and then from high school. I knew all of my classmates for 13 years and we became really close.

How different is Peru now than 10-15 years ago?

Lima used to have a very developed capital city, but with very rural and poor provinces throughout the rest of the country. There is still some inequality today, but it is definitely less. Provinces have advanced technologically in the past 15 years and Lima has become a much more cosmopolitan city.

Can you share some cultural thoughts about Peru?

Spanish is our main language and it dominates media, education and politics. Food depends on the area of Peru, but having grown up in Lima, seafood is very popular. Geographically, Peru is very diverse. We have the Pacific coast, Andes Mountains and Amazon in a country that’s the size of Texas. Peru has its own traditional music that also depends where you are, but the international music scene is popular, too. Soccer is huge in Peru because, like any other Latin American country, we love our team. There’s not a lot of diversification of sport because soccer is so huge. Peru is filled with historical sites. The Incan Empire chose Peru as its epicenter and, thus, created many sites to worship their gods until the 16th century when the Spanish came in and conquered the land. Machu Picchu, in the province of Cuzco, is the most famous site. It’s an entire city made of stone in the midst of a much-vegetated area. Economically, Peru is best known for exporting potatoes. The vegetable originally comes from Peru and we have more than 3,000 kinds of potatoes.

If you were a tour guide for others visiting Peru, where would you take them?

I’d split the tour up into the coast, the sierra and jungle. In the coast I would spend a few days in Lima to cover the capital and its history. We would then go to Cuzco to see Machu Picchu and the Andes. We’d then head to the Amazon and end the tour in the jungle.

What’s a misconception people have about Peru?

I think the main misconception is how students underestimate American influence. Peru, like other countries, is heavily exposed to American media, cinema, music and food. Many Peruvians are learning English to further business relations with the United States.

How did you hear about USD? Major?

I first heard about USD through my orthodontist. His daughter went here and graduated in 2010. I went to a college fair in Lima and spoke to Maria Malloy, who was there to recruit international students. I am a junior, majoring in political science and French and minoring in Latin American Studies.

Describe your experience at USD?

I’ve had a great experience at USD. I think I adjusted really well, partly because I immediately befriended my roommates and neighbors when I was a freshman. I like being an international student because I can relate to others coming from abroad and going through the same adjustment process. USD has always been great at providing any sort of assistance to students. I’ve never felt alone here.

What are your thoughts about American culture? Has your adjustment been difficult?

I’ve learned so much from American culture. While there are some aspects I’d change, I can honestly say I’ve become more disciplined in the U.S. People here are hard working, appreciate effort and are respectful of time. This was different in Peru where the society is much more laid back. It hasn’t been a difficult adjustment because I have loved living away from home. I love Peru, but being on my own has enabled me to explore my persona and my interests. In Peru, people usually don’t leave home for university and continue living with their parents until they’re married or in their late 20s. I decided as a teenager that I didn’t want that lifestyle because I knew there were better options available. Leaving home was primarily a way for me to grow and explore. To help my adjustment in San Diego I’ve kept close friendships. I’ve taken time to foster relationships because I want each one to be meaningful. I have American and international friends and I feel close to both. I’ve already had three friends come to Peru and visit me during different school breaks. The biggest help in my adjustment has come through my friends.

The All Faith Service is a chance to represent Peru and carry your flag. How do you feel about being a part of this event?

Representing Peru allows me to create a personal bond between my two homes. Carrying the flag is a symbol that USD cares about the world and that every student feels comfortable in this amazing learning environment.

Describe Peru in one sentence:

A chaotic, but charming, work in progress.

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