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TLife Blog: A Student Leadership and Involvement Center Adventure

20,000 Leagues… no… 9,000 feet above the sea

This past Intersession, ten students and two coordinators traveled to Peru, on an immersion trip through USD’s Student Leadership and Involvement Center.After just two flights from San Diego, these twelve found themselves in Lima, the capital of Peru, late into the evening. Our journey had just begun. These members of the USD community were ready to immerse themselves in a new way of life: a challenging yet exciting alternate lifestyle where "social justice" and "privilege" were unpacked.

The primary destination of these 12 toreros was a village in the highlands of Peru (approximately 9,000 ft. about sea-level) called Chuquibamba, a community not on a map and where residents just received electricity two years prior. The twelve Toreros welcomed the challenge with the phrase “no expectations” meaning they were not expecting luxury, accommodation, or an easy transition but were fully prepared to have some fun and learn, no matter what hardships and challenges they faced. Little did they know the people of Chuquibamba were expecting our Toreros with smiling faces, kisses on the cheeks, and warm soup! This group of Toreros was one of the few foreigners the people of Chuquibamba had ever hosted, and our Toreros were very grateful for their friendship.

The people of Chuquibamba lead a life of simplicity: they plow fields, clean their homes, cook, and promptly at 5 p.m. each evening gather around the community court to play a game of volleyball together where even our foreign Toreros were welcomed. The twelve admired this way of life and their “no expectations” phrase added to the idea of living simply and happily. Along the journey to Chuquibamba, they were graced with amazing friends and relationships that were unforgettable.

The people of Peru are extremely generous and hospitable. Peruvians share whatever it is that they have with natives and foreigners alike, and these lucky Toreros even got a taste of a Peruvian delicacy- guinea pig. As if forming lasting relationships with Peruvian friends and delicious meals was not enough, these lucky students and even Diego Torero got to visit the world wonder of Machu Picchu, in Cusco, Peru. Diego even got in a quick photo-shoot with the austere Incan ruins. Our Toreros returned on January16 after an amazing twelve-day excursion. Ask one of the adventurers about the trip the 12 that attended including seniors Georgia David, Kelly Fromm, Beau Osland, and Samantha Slavinsky, juniors Mallory Collins, and Farrah Coltrain, sophomores Carmelita Salazar-Dodge, first-year students Aubrianna Butler, Vincent Cabral, and Courtney Windju, and coordinator: Laura McNaughton, and Jason Schreiber.

Excuse My Uneasiness: I Have Confined Myself to Hide Behind Walls

It may sound silly, but prior to traveling to Peru, I had never imaged how people outside of the United States might be. Since I had never traveled internationally, I never wondered what life might be like outside of my country. I unintentionally assumed that everywhere in the world was like the United States. As the plane began to descend into Lima, I was struck with unease, confusion, and a bit of fear and at the time, I did not known why. As I look back today, I realize that this fear and uneasiness stemmed from my inability to fully demolish the walls that maintained the perception of my identity- my inability to see myself as a human being rather than a privileged United States citizen. These walls created a distance between others and myself, keeping us forcibly “different” from one another. In my eyes I feared being in Peru because I feared judgment and alienation. Then, another thought struck me- I never asked to be born as a United States citizen. I never asked to be given this lifestyle, though I felt an immense sense of guilt for having it. I felt guilty for being privileged, for having the funds to travel internationally, and for having so many things I never really deserved. However, like I said at the time of the trip I did not really understand why I felt discomfort, and now I find myself aware of the “why”, but still a little uncomfortable.

Peru asked me to become vulnerable- to attempt things I never would attempt here in the United States. Vulnerability is a challenging word because when we become vulnerable we tear down those walls that construct the façade of “who we are”. This façade distracts us and makes us believe that who we think we are is in fact who we are. Privilege is one of these facades. What we think is ours must be ours, right? What we have and hold distinguishes us from those surrounding us, correct? Not at all. Because somewhere beyond all of these complex structures of the perception of self-identity, the perception of the U.S. citizen, the perception of the citizens of the rest world, and the perception of privilege, I found myself capable of communication with the Peruvian people, even though I speak Spanish rather poorly. I was capable of creating true friendships even though I may never see my Peruvian friends again and I was capable of communication on an emotional level deeper than words, creating true friendships built on the realization that we are not so different. We are all similar and our goals are intertwined. My goal is to exist beyond the technicalities of what we call modern society, beyond the terms of rich or poor, beyond the pressures of national allegiance, beyond the terms of the scope of intelligence or any other social construction... so far beyond these terms to where I am not a U.S. citizen but a global citizen, not just an over-privileged person but instead just a person, and more importantly, not just a person but a friend.

When behind the Wall no one can see you, not even yourself

Now I ask you to try to see yourself beyond what you have been constructed as, to see yourself beyond things you have acquired, and beyond comparisons to others. When we end the comparison and end the race to become something we are not, we can focus on what we are. When we stop assuming we are so different from one another we can become a true society. Privilege is a reaction to fear- the fear of being too alike, and the fear of being too similar to the person next to you that you are no longer a special individual. The catch is- your privileges are not you, and because they are not you, they do not make you special. Place yourself in the grasp of vulnerability, do something you were always too fearful to do, when you do this you can find a bit of your true self, and find a bit of the real world, too. In case you were wondering, this is what being in Peru taught me. 

By: Vincent Cabral

Click here to read about a study abroad experience in London.

"Place yourself in the grasp of vulnerability, do something you were always too fearful to do, when you do this you can find a bit of your true self, and find a bit of the real world, too." Vincent Cabral, Class of 2014