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Changing Times: The End of a Visa and the Rise of Another

Time August 26th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

I remember sitting in Starbucks that April day. As the noise of the coffee shop surrounded me, I was sitting there—stressed, annoyed, frustrated, and hurt. Thankfully, my friend was there listening to me, consoling me through a difficult school year with difficult friends. And thankfully, someone else was listening to that conversation. Someone else who spoke up and invited me to church.


That was the beginning of how I came to attend a certain church my latter years of high school. A church that not only helped grow and strengthen my faith, but a church that led me to Peru on a mission trip.

It was through that church that I met the man who would later become my husband. It was through that church that I met Peru.  Read More »


Returning to Cusco and Dealing with the Police

Time August 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

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Seeing Peru through Tourist’s Eyes

Time August 22nd, 2016 in College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

Shortly after classes ended in the beginning of July, my parents flew down to Lima to visit me and my husband for two weeks. Prior to their arrival in this great city, we frantically rushed around town trying to get everything in order—food and snacks, domestic flights, hotel reservations, activities, and more. But while we were organizing everything so that my parents could have a smooth vacation, we could no longer see Lima as our home; rather, we had to see the city through the eyes of a tourist. This change in perception, although small, drastically changed our view of the city so that we could appreciate it to its fullest. Read More »


Jumping Through the Window: The First Time I’ve Felt Unsafe Here in Peru

Time August 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | 1 Comment by

I just bought our tickets yesterday to return home to the States with my husband. We will be leaving on Friday, July 29th. It’s all a little surreal—even though classes ended a few weeks ago, and my parents already came and visited us, it’s hard to believe that we’re already leaving.

But as I reflect back on my time in Peru, I can remember only one instance of ever feeling truly unsafe.

If you have been reading my posts from the beginning, you will remember that I had mentioned how, upon telling others that I would be studying abroad in Peru, they would scowl and say, “Be safe.”

There is a perception in the United States and much of the Western World that Latin America is inherently unsafe, as it is a haven for drug lords, coups, and civil unrest. However, I found this notion to be largely untrue. While Latinos live a very different lifestyle, their culture is not unsafe. Living among them requires the same amount of common sense necessary to surviving in any other culture.

Even in the poorer neighborhoods of Lima, I never quite felt unsafe. I did take extra precautions surrounding my personal items, but I never felt as though I was in any sort of real danger.

So imagine my surprise at my husband’s worry when I tell my him that the program’s goodbye dinner is in the tourist neighborhood of Barranco.


img_2610 The main square in Barranco


“What are they thinking, taking you there? That is a very dangerous area. I don’t think you should go, especially considering it doesn’t even start until late at night.”

I was initially shocked by his comments until I looked at the location of the restaurant. It was quite far from the main tourist area. Barranco is normally safe, but if you venture too far from the main square, especially at night, things can get sketchy. Even though I would probably not be bothered, common sense tells me to avoid that area at night.

But since I wanted to spend time with the other program students before we parted ways, I went anyway. I called a safe taxi, kissed my husband goodbye, and went on my way. I was looking at pictures on my phone, only halfway paying attention to my surroundings. As we approached Barranco, I noticed that we were driving through one of the bad parts of Lima. I felt uneasy, but I convinced myself that I would feel better once we arrived at the restaurant.

The taxi was about three blocks away from the restaurant. We were going over a series of speed bumps, and as we hit one, a guy suddenly tried to jump through the window open by the taxi driver. I screamed, and the driver promptly shoved the guy outside the window. Frightened, I asked the driver what the guy wanted, but I couldn’t understand him. He did say, however, that this was an extremely unsafe area and that sometimes people will try to steal or kill drivers when they slow down at the speed bumps.

The driver asked me what I was doing around this area, and I told him that I was having a dinner with my study abroad program. He strongly cautioned me to be careful. The restaurant, he told me, was safe, but the surrounding area was not.

The dinner show eventually started, but I could not enjoy my time. The adrenaline from the even was still rushing through my veins, and I was worried about my trip home, since I would have to go through that neighborhood again in order to return home. I called my husband about what happened, and he immediately came to pick me up. I tried to enjoy myself for the half hour while I waited for him, something that proved to be immensely difficult.

My husband arrived in a taxi, and gave me a hug. I started crying about the incident, as I was still scared. I don’t know what the guy wanted, but if the driver had not been proactive in pushing him away, my night would have ended very differently.

My husband told me that while he was in the taxi to pick me up, he say several gangs standing around watching the cars drive by, waiting to do something to an unsuspecting driver or passenger. When he told me this, our taxi driver chimed in and said that the area was unsafe.

We went home and called over our neighbor to have a drink. I drank some wine, and retold the night’s events for the fifth or sixth time. He was surprised by the choice of location as well, but was glad I was safe. After two or three glasses, I was relaxed enough to fall asleep and forget about my worries.

I woke up the next morning feeling at peace about the whole situation. While there were many things that could have gone wrong that night, there were many things that actually went right. From the proactive behavior of the taxi driver, to the quick reaction of my husband, I ended my night in safety.

And while I was in danger that night, I don’t think that I should let one experience in a bad neighborhood negatively affect my perception of Peru. I love this country and will always be an advocate for its safe environment, provided travelers exercise good judgment and common sense.


Remembering Peru: Souvenir Ideas

Time July 29th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

There is a popular expression promoting minimalism that goes, “Collect memories, not things.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement—the minimalist mindset is one that strives to find meaning and value in relationships and experiences rather than material items. When sorting through my things or purchasing new ones, I like to keep this mindset, even when souvenir shopping.

However, that is not to say that I never actually buy anything—quite the contrary! I just think that it is really important to consider WHY I want to purchase a souvenir, just like any other item. I would much rather have a few meaningful pieces than a bunch of junk that I only somewhat enjoy.

Read More »


On Being Sick for an Entire Week (or maybe an entire month?)

Time July 21st, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

I picked up many nice souvenirs during my time in Cusco. Matching hats made from baby alpaca wool, an overpriced journal, and scented glitter gel pens were my favorites.  I even picked up something with very lasting memories attached to it—FOOD POISONING.

I’m no stranger to street food and sketchy food joints here in Peru. My husband and I regularly frequent establishments that would probably be an American Health Inspector’s nightmare. Since I hail from the land of rules and regulations, there is always a tinge of worry tainting my thoughts whenever I choose to eat at these places. Yet for some reason, despite my constant fears and doubts, I’ve never gotten sick. Because of this, I tend to turn a blind eye to questionable food safety practices.

So imagine my delight when our Program Director invites the group to a pizza place during our last night in Cusco, a respectable restaurant located in the heart of the tourist district. Seems like a safe place to not worry about, right? WRONG!

Read More »


The Necessity of Humility

Time July 5th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

Even though I have been to Peru four times now, I had successfully avoided visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu until very recently. I probably wouldn’t have gone, either, except for the fact that one of the required trips included in the program is visiting Peru’s most famous tourist attraction. And that’s exactly why I never had any inclination to visit, because Cusco and Machu Picchu are both crawling with tourists. Read More »


How to Pack for Weekend Trips

Time June 6th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

One of the most exciting aspects of any study abroad program is the heightened ability to travel easily. Whether you want to whisk away to a foreign country for a quick visit, or you want to explore a town that you’ve learned about in class, weekend trips are an extremely likely component of your study abroad experience.

Even if you don’t have the desire or funds to travel much during your semester abroad, chances are very likely that your program will include some weekend trips as a part of your learning experience. In that case, you will need to pack a small bag, which can be tricky. When you overpack for short, highly-mobile trips, you can feel weighed down by excess stuff. The point of trips is to enjoy the experience, so each item should be useful so that you can focus on your travels instead of your items. After taking a couple weekend trips (both for the program and with my husband), I have compiled some tips to help you pack more efficiently for the weekend:

Read More »


How to Study Abroad in a Foreign Language

Time May 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

When I was in the planning stage for studying abroad, many different programs tried to sell me their perfect version of academics in a foreign land. Some took pride in their excursion-based, globe-trotting setting, where participants visit the sites and cultures that they learn about in class, such as having art class at the Louvre or Latin class a block away from the Colosseum. Other programs touted their appeal to foreigners through American professors and independent living arrangements.

However, as I have mentioned in previous posts, one of the reasons that I chose this program in particular was so that I could improve my Spanish skills and attempt to integrate into Peruvian culture as much as possible.

But even so, after I had selected this program, the idea of studying abroad was still overly romanticized, both by my home university and by IFSA-Butler itself. While I received endless information regarding culture shock and safety tips, I felt extremely underprepared when it came to my future classes. Not only would I be taking a full schedule of classes in a foreign language, I would have to adjust to a completely different learning system.Like any Millennial, I scoured the Internet for the best tips out there, only to come up empty-handed. It seemed as though EVERYONE had forgotten the first half of the term “studying abroad.”

Read More »


My Marriage and the Unfolding of Peruvian Society

Time April 25th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

Confession time: my reasons for studying abroad in Peru run deeper than my desires to learn about Latin American culture and to live in the developing world.

In fact, it even explains my month-long hiatus from blog writing.

Read More »


Study Abroad in a Carry-On: Final Thoughts (7/7)

Time April 4th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

I made it to Peru without any troubles! I’ve actually been here for about a month and a half now, but I wanted to get settled before I write this “review” post about my packing method.


ifsa saco 7 final thoughts


I had three flights, and two short layovers, which were less than two hours. I flew Chicago O’Hare to Orlando, Orlando to Dallas FW, and Dallas FW to Lima.

When navigating my luggage, most people left me alone, even though it looked really full. However, at pretty much every gate, airline employees kept asking me to take out my gift blanket in order to “make it fit” in the overhead bins. This was very frustrating, especially since I know that the full suitcase would easily fit, even with the blanket packed. However, I realized that these people were just trying to do their job, so I was as polite and courteous as possible, casually mentioning that I was traveling to Peru for six months, and this was all the luggage I had. As soon as I mentioned that, the employees were very understanding and accommodating, helping me so that I would not have to gate-check my bag.

Read More »


Study Abroad in a Carry-On: Packing (6/7)

Time April 4th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

Tears were streaming down my face as I frantically rushed to fit everything in my suitcase. I had thought that everything would fit perfectly, but alas, it did not. I needed to leave for the airport in ten minutes, and I was stressed beyond belief. I had to make split-second decisions as to what to bring and what to leave behind. Outfits that I had dreamed of wearing quickly dissolved as clothes deemed unnecessary were thrown out of the suitcase in a desperate attempt to make everything fit. I zipped my luggage, and looked back at the house I would leave for six weeks. Clothes, shoes, and toiletries were strewn about the living room floor. They were now my parents’ problem.



This, my friends, is one of the reasons why I’ve gone through all the trouble of showing you how to pack for your study abroad trip in just one carry-on and personal item. I could have just listed my personal packing list, but I showed you how to approach packing lightly. The secret is planning ahead in order to determine what you will need.

Read More »


Study Abroad in a Carry-On: Health & Medicine

Time February 26th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

Humanity is not perfect, and every once in a while we experience some sort of malady. Because your health is crucial to your success during your semester abroad, you should pack whatever is necessary to maintain your well-being.

Although this post is extremely important, it’s difficult to write. Each person has their own unique ways for managing their health, so I can’t give a one-size-fits-all type of list. Some people prefer to take medicines for every ailment, while others take a holistic approach. Because of this variation, I will start by offering approaches to begin packing items for your health. After that, I will detail the items on my packing list, giving descriptions as necessary.


The first step to determine what health items to pack is to think about what remedies you use during a calendar year. Do you take any prescription medication? What do you do if you have a headache? Are you allergic to anything? Begin by asking yourself questions like these. When I first started traveling, I rushed out to buy medicine “just in case” I ever got a bad cold. However, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t necessary, because I never take cold medicine at home.

When packing medicines, only take what you need (unless it is vital medication, in which case, you should bring extra). If you have a prescription, talk to your doctor about your options. Medications are available without a prescription in Peru, but you might want to bring enough to last you for your entire trip. However, for non-essential medication, limit what you bring. You don’t need to pack an entire box’s worth of allergy medicine if you only take a few pills per year. It’s easy to be overcome by fear of the unknown, but remember that the locals at your destination are human, too. While the local pharmacy might not stock a specific brand of nasal decongestant, they will most likely sell something similar.

If you need to bring liquid medicine for any reason, rejoice! TSA allows you to bring liquid medicine apart from your liquids bag. All you need to do is tell the TSA agent prior to screening that you have liquid medication in your bag. Read here for more information!

Also, the one medication that I will recommend that you bring is stomach relief. Traveling to a developing country means that you will likely have an upset stomach at some point. Imodium, chewable Pepto, and Tums are good choices.

Don’t forget to include items like contact lenses, an empty water bottle, and a few band-aids.





Medicine Bag:

  • prescription medication
  • travel tube of Advil
  • sleep aid
  • roll of Tums
  • Imodium
  • Pepto
  • nasal decongestant
  • Tiger Balm (great multi-use product. I use it for muscle cramping, as a Vapo-Rub, and to soothe bug bites)
  • Burt’s Bees Res-Q Ointment (for burns)
  • Badger Night-Night Balm (smells like lavender and chamomile)
  • Prid Drawing Salve (for deep pimples, bug bites, and splinters)


  • Platypus 1.0 Liter water bottle (rolls up flat to take up less space)
  • LifeStraw Go water bottle (filters out bacteria from the water supply. I don’t like buying packaged water when I’m out, so this will make the tap water safe to drink)
  • Assorted tea and coffee (a taste of home)


  • NRR 33 earplugs (highest noise-reduction)
  • eyemask
  • Trtl pillow (alternative to the U-Shaped pillow for air travel)
  • camomile tea (above)
  • Badger Night-Night Balm (above)
  • sleep aid (above)

Eye Correction:

  • Glasses
  • Daily contact lenses

That’s pretty much it! I like to keep my medicines in a small, flat bag (I use the smallest bag from this set) that can easily be tucked into my suitcase. Also, as I mentioned a few posts ago, don’t forget to bring paper copies of your prescription medication. You might need it for TSA, customs, or medical purposes.

Only two posts left in this series! Now that I’ve covered WHAT to pack, I will show you HOW to pack both your carry-on and your personal item, and any remaining items. Stay tuned!


Study Abroad in a Carry-On: Toiletries & Makeup (4/7)

Time February 24th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

Ah, yes. Toiletries. The items that are most often liquid. Toiletries can make or break your goal to go carry-on only, so you must be wise.


Airport security restricts carry-on liquids to be less than 3.4 oz (100 mL), and they MUST fit in one, clear, quart-size, zip-top bag.

Have I confused you yet?

Hopefully not. This rule, although it seems restrictive, is actually nice, because it allows you to take only what you need. With the right quart-sized bag and the right container sizes, you can fit quite a bit of items in your liquids bag.


Most travelers opt for a quart-sized Ziploc bag to meet this requirement. During this series, I am refraining from recommending any certain item for everyone. Some things that I deem essential, like a flat water bottle, are completely useless and unnecessary to others. However, I do highly recommend that you consider purchasing a reusable liquids bag. It makes travels so much easier.

The Ziploc is fine, but I have begun many trips with the most pristine sandwich bag, only to find it falling apart by the end of a one-week trip! The lack of durability prompts me to bring extra bags, which is completely wasteful. Additionally, it’s extremely difficult to fit more than a few items due to its shape. I have decided to leave the Ziploc bag for its intended use:


I use the Clear Quart Bag from Flight 001, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve used it multiple times, and it still looks new. It’s approved by TSA (even the colorful ones!), so you don’t need to have any anxiety about it being confiscated. The box shape allows you to fit many things of many shapes and many sizes in it. It’s great for side trips, because I know that it will be in great condition when it comes time to fly home.

toiletries bag


Here’s where things get tricky. I would recommend that you bring enough liquids to last you a few days, and then buy the rest at your destination. However, I also understand that some of you might have products that you totally love that could be difficult to locate abroad.

First, you need to determine what you can and can’t live without. For instance, although I’m particular about using sulfate-free shampoo and have a favored brand that I use, I’m not really that picky. Many mainstream brands have their own sulfate-free shampoo, so I’m not too worried.

Skin care is a different story. I can use most products, but if I change too many things at once, I will break out until my skin adjusts. So instead of bringing a ton of hair products, I’m saving space for my favorite skin products.

When determining how much to bring, please remember that you don’t use as much product as you think you do. For instance, I apply sunscreen to my face, neck, and hands every day, often with multiple applications throughout the day. Even though I use it regularly, a three ounce bottle will last me at least six months.

Now, before you tell me that you will never survive without your BRANDS while abroad, let me persuade you otherwise.

People have been surviving at your location for hundreds and thousands of years. The world has been mostly modernized for many years now, but humanity has survived for SUCH A LONG TIME. While you might not be able to find your exact product abroad, I can almost guarantee that you will live without it.

If you still need more convincing, let me offer more words of hope. If you are going to Europe or Asia, rejoice! Places like France and Japan are renowned for their fantastic array of beauty products. I encourage you to find equivalents of your products abroad. If you are headed to South America, more specifically Peru, you can rejoice, too. The vast majority of drugstore (and high-end) brands can be located anywhere in Peru (except maybe the Amazon, in which case, it’s so humid that you won’t need skin care).

Seriously. This was perhaps the most surprising thing about traveling to Peru. Neutrogena, L’Oreal, Maybelline, Clinique, and Estée Lauder can all be located easily. Don’t believe me? Poke around on these websites (two of the main carriers of beauty products in Peru):

There are also traditional drugstores like Inka Farma that carry these brands as well. Honestly, unless you use an indie brand, you can find it in Peru. Pack accordingly.


Solid toiletries are a lot easier to pack, for obvious reasons. They have a longer shelf life, are less messy, and don’t need to be housed in your quart-sized bag. Solid toiletries are more helpful for shorter trips, where buying toiletries at your location would be wasteful. However, if you plan to take several side-trips, solids can be helpful.

In the coming months I will have a more in-depth look at solid toiletries on my main blog, In the meantime, if you are interested in solid toiletries, here are some ideas for you to research:

  • shampoo bars
  • tooth powder
  • clay face masks
  • soap bars for face and body
  • exfoliating powders
  • makeup removing wipes
  • coconut oil
  • sunscreen sticks
  • hair pomade



Makeup, on the other hand, is not as important. If you don’t wear it on a regular basis, don’t bother bringing it. I only wear makeup a couple times per week, and even then I barely do a full face. However, I do like to play around with it, especially when I go out, so I’m bringing a few items.


Now, when you look at my picture of the items I’m bringing, you might think that I’m packing a TON of makeup. Although I could definitely  downsize it in a few areas, my makeup bag is quite modest compared to most “travel makeup kits” floating around on the Internet.  My products will allow me to change up my look without taking up half of my suitcase.

There are a couple of approaches to take when picking out your makeup kit. The first is by choosing your favorite items that you know work for you. The second is to take products that you don’t use as often, so that you can use them up while you’re traveling. I decided to go with a mixture of both approaches. I chose to bring eyeshadow that I don’t always use, as well some mascara samples that I’m excited to try. Other items, like my highlighter and setting powder, I use all the time.

Just like clothes, it’s a good idea to research what kind of makeup women in your host country like to wear. Products such as red lipstick can be seen as fun and exciting in South America yet vulgar in Europe. Neutral eyeshadow like the Naked palettes are all the rage in North America but viewed as boring and useless by women in more vibrant cultures. Do some research!

For instance, Peruvian women LOVE makeup. Not only do they enjoy wearing it, they go for bold looks such as colorful eyeshadow and orange lips. Don’t believe me? Check out this video by Peru’s tourist website. Skip to 3:50-4:00, and you will see what I’m talking about. [INSERT LINK]

Ultimately, you can bring whatever you want, but it’s fun to experiment with another culture’s ideas of beauty. Makeup is supposed to be fun!

Remember to pack your makeup in a reasonably-sized cosmetics bag. Mine is from Orla Kiely for Target, and I like it a lot! It has two compartments and several inner pockets, so organization is easy. The outer fabric is coated in a waterproof material, and the entire outside is padded to protect items in transit. The zippers are very easy to use, and it holds all of my items without taking up half of my suitcase.

makeup bag


Now that you have selected which items to bring, it’s a good idea to clean your items. That way, when you arrive, you can enjoy your time in a new country rather than worrying about sticky label residue or dirty makeup brushes. Also, don’t forget personal care items like combs and nail clippers.

In the next few days I will post the next part in this series, how to pack medicines and health items. And as always, thank you for joining me on my journey to Peru!


Study Abroad in a Carry-On: Technology & School Stuff

Time February 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

Now that we’ve covered clothes, let’s discuss the REAL reason why you’re studying abroad—school. I decided to group technology and school supplies together, since most electronics will be used for classes in some way.

Like any other modern college student, I rely on my technology to improve my efficiency, contact my friends and family, and organize my life. However, like any other modern traveler, I know that electronics, while necessary, are a liability. Expensive items like iPhones and MacBooks are targets for thieves. That is why it is best to only bring what you will need and use while studying abroad. The less you bring, the less you can lose.



  • Computer/Tablet

Since you’re going to classes, I would recommend bringing a laptop if you have one. Before you leave, you can download books and movies for in-flight entertainment. International flights can be very long and boring! I would not advise you to take both a tablet and a computer on any travels. Go with the one that you use for classes most of the time. Also, if you use any special chords for school (such as an ethernet cable or a VGA-to-LightningBolt converter), be sure to pack those.

  • Cell Phone

Since I will be blogging, I have chosen to take my iPhone so that I can take pictures. It’s an old model that’s out of contract, so I will unlock it from my carrier and buy a SIM card to use down there. You can also buy a cheap phone to use during your travels. Most of the world does not use cell phone contracts, and instead they use prepaid phone cards. Peru is the same way; you only buy minutes as needed, so it will be very easy to find a suitable phone plan once you arrive.

  • Audio

As for headphones, bring whatever you normally use. Although I’m bringing a pair of traditional headphones for use on the plane and at home, they are a bit flashy, so I will also bring the ones that came with my iPhone. I will use these when out in public, since they are less of a liability.

  • Camera

Studying abroad is the trip of a lifetime, and you might want to capture your favorite moments on camera. For most things, a smartphone camera will suffice. However, if you want to bring a DSLR or action camera, feel free. Just realize that they can be easily stolen, depending where you choose to take pictures. I’m bringing a small action camera with a suction cup mount and waterproof housing to take photos and videos for the blog, but I won’t be bringing it everywhere. I will only use it when I need it, so as to eliminate the possibility of losing it or having it stolen.


Before you leave, it would be wise to research the electrical situation in your host country. The two things you need to research are outlet shape and voltage.

  • Adaptors

Outlet shape varies by country, although certain regions tend to use the same type of plug. Most of Europe uses round prongs, and North America uses flat prongs. For Peru specifically, the outlets can either be flat or round, and sometimes both. I’ve never needed an adapter (a tool that changes plug type), but I’m going to bring a small rounded one just in case. Older Peruvian homes sometimes use rounded plugs, and since I don’t know my accommodations yet, it won’t hurt to bring a small one. Also, if you plan on traveling to other countries, it might help to look up the electrical situation there, too. For instance, Chile and Argentina both use different outlets than Peru.

  • Convertors

Voltage is the other thing you need to research before you go. Some countries, such as the US, run on 120/125 V. Others, such as Peru, use 220/240 V. This means that if your destination uses a different voltage than your home country, you might need a converter. If you are only bringing electronics such as your phone and computer, your chargers probably support both types of currents. If that is the case, then you would only need adapters for your trip. However, you need to check your chargers before you leave!


You’re studying abroad, remember? Sometimes I am inclined to think that I am only taking a long trip, forgetting that my main purpose in Peru is studying. And because you will spend a lot of time hitting the books, you need to pack a few things.

Perhaps the biggest difference between college and high school is the absence of the school supply list. By now, you’ve figured out what works for you and what doesn’t. I personally prefer to take notes by hand, but many of my peers use only their laptops to keep up in class.

Items like notebooks, pens, pencils, and folders can be sourced abroad. Peruvians are students, too! I’m going to bring some pens that I really like, but many places carry the same brands that you use in the States. It’s a good idea to bring at least one writing utensil, since you will need it to fill out your customs form.

Another reason to buy your school supplies abroad is the change in pressure when flying. I know it sounds weird, but so many of my gel pens and highlighters have never functioned the quite the same way after a flight. That’s why I will bring a few cheap ballpoint pens and a small bag in which to keep them for my trip. Make sure to put them in your personal item for easy access in-flight.

It’s also a good idea to keep a folder of important documents while traveling. Prescriptions, travel itinerary, and any addresses are good to have in one place. Have the address of your accommodation, orientation hotel, and local program office handy, since you will need to provide at least one address on your immigration form. The best address to use is that of your host family’s, but if you do not know that by the time you leave, provide one of the latter two addresses.

That’s it! Packing electronics and school supplies is very easy, it just requires a bit of research. Stay tuned for the next post in this series!


Study Abroad in a Carry-On: Clothes (2/7)

Time February 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

Have you ever stood in front of your closet and proclaimed, “I have absolutely NOTHING to wear!”? If you’re anything like me, I’m sure that you have uttered this statement at one time or another.

And again, if you’re anything like me, I can safely guess that you don’t mean to say that you LITERALLY have nothing to wear. Rather, your favorite jeans are in the wash, and none of your remaining clothes match. At all.



I’m proud to say that I’ve lived to tell the tale of days like these, usually by inventing a new creative ensemble, but what happens when the Nothing-To-Wear Syndrome strikes when you’re traveling? You don’t have your entire wardrobe packed into your suitcase. If none of your clothes match, you’re pretty much out of luck, all thanks to poor planning.

When I tell people about the few clothing items that I bring on my trips, they look at me as though I’ve lost my mind. Again, I probably am a bit crazy, but stay with me here.

I like to take no more than 15 pieces of clothing with me when I travel, and my semester abroad is no different. Before I get into the specifics of how I go about accomplishing this, let me tell you why I’m crazy enough to attempt five months with only fifteen pieces of clothing:

My first trip abroad was to Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, for a mission trip. Like many people who travel to impoverished countries, my time in Haiti completely transformed the way I look at material items.

I had purchased all-new clothing and shoes for the trip, the quality of which was significantly different when contrasted to that of the Haitians. Not only were my clothes in remarkable condition, I had the advantage of actually changing my outfits every day. During that trip, I would step into the hot sun in a freshly-laundered outfit, only to meet my new friends wearing the exact same dirty pants and torn pair of knockoff Crocs as yesterday. And yet, despite their lack of basic necessities, they were joyful. More joyful than I had ever been in my life.

Events like these trips helped me realize that I had WAY too many clothes. My identity did not need to stem from how I dressed; rather, my character should manifest through the way I interact with others. Over the coming years, I purged my closet of things I didn’t need, wear, or like. And as my wardrobe quickly diminished, I realized something very important.

I wear the same clothes on a weekly basis. Seriously! I do my laundry once a week, and as soon as all of my clothes are clean, I always reach for the same items. My maroon pants, my turquoise sweater, my tan cardigan . . . they are the items I reach for first. I love them so much that I end up wearing the same things every few days.


Recognition of concepts like this is the first step to creating a fantastic travel wardrobe that kills the Nothing-To-Wear Syndrome before it begins. The next steps include analyzing the culture to where you’re headed and looking at the weather.

These two steps go hand-in-hand, and they are extremely important when deciding what to wear on any trip. For instance, you might be traveling to a very hot destination, so you naturally want to pack shorts. Except, you’re going to the Middle East. Shorts are not culturally-sensitive clothing.

Remember, when you go abroad, you are a guest of another culture. I know that in the States we have this mentality that autonomy reigns supreme, and that nobody  can dictate what you wear. However, this is a TERRIBLE approach to traveling. You have no right to enter a country’s borders. The government is granting you the privilege of visiting their country, so it is best to dress as culturally sensitive as possible. Not only does this show respect, but it lessens your chances of exploitation for being an obvious foreigner.

A great starting place would be Google (or your preferred search engine). For instance, I searched the term “people in Lima,” went to “Images,” and studied those images. I noticed that other females typically dress in pants (as opposed to dresses or skirts) and only wear shorts to the beach.

screenshot google

I encourage you to take some time and do some serious research about your location. Look at other travelers’ packing lists for the region, consult forums, and read blog posts. Not only will they help you determine what the locals wear, these resources will help you assess the weather patterns during your stay. After my research, I learned that Lima is actually a desert, so even though it can get hot during the day, the temperature drops significantly come nightfall. Thus, I now know that dressing in layers is key. If I had not researched Lima, I would have packed inappropriate clothing for my trip.


After much deliberation, I finally decided on the garments I’m bringing. Even though I’ve  been to Peru several times (more on that later), it took me weeks to make a final decision.

I needed to make sure that all of my clothes were relatively wrinkle-free. Even the richest people in Lima do not have clothes dryers, so I opted to take items that line dry well.

I have one pair of shoes in Peru. I opted to bring shoes with arch support, because walking is crucial in the city. Comfortable shoes are important when you walk almost everywhere!

Here is the final list:

  • 3 pants
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 2 sweaters
  • 2 cardigans
  • 4 dresses
  • 4 pairs of shoes


clothes flatlay

This is my basic wardrobe. Each of the items match all others, thus eliminating the chance of having “nothing” to wear. Because I have so few items, I can focus more on the experience of being in Peru, rather than worrying about something so trivial as my clothing.

And here’s the beauty of taking just the basics: if I truly need something while I’m in Peru, I can just buy it down there. The last time I was there, I forgot to pack a cardigan, so I purchased one. Now, whenever I see it in my closet, the item conjures warm memories of purchasing it in Peru. It’s completely unique and has a great story to carry with it.

If you look closely at my picture, you will notice that two of the dresses are missing. That’s because they are in Peru. As I mentioned earlier, I will detail my connections to Peru in a later post. In the meantime, do know that I am leaving space for those dresses upon my return.


When I put clothes into my suitcase, I like to use packing cubes. They aren’t completely necessary, but they help organize and compress the clothing, which makes the whole packing process much easier.

packing cubes flatlay

These are from Eagle Creek. They’re extremely lightweight. With the exception of the outfit I will be wearing on my flight, I can fit all of the clothes pictured above in the largest cube with some room to spare. The other two will be used to transport the dresses on the way back.

I used a combination of rolling and folding to fill the large cube. Here is the finished result:

stuffed cube zipped cube

As for shoes, I decided to bring three pairs of flats and one pair of boots. Two of my flats are leather, and the other one, which is in Peru, is actually a pair of Crocs sandals. They’re great because they are ridiculously comfortable, waterproof (thus eliminating the need for flip-flops), and they match my dressier outfits as well as my casual ones. The leather flats are brown, and have the same versatility as the Crocs. The fourth pair of shoes, the boots, are actually really unique. They are chukkas, so they’re similar to a tennis shoe, but they have the sole that mimics a hiking boot. I bought them for trekking Machu Picchu, but they are still fashionable enough to wear with my regular outfits when going to class or sightseeing.

All of these shoes are great for walking, but be sure to break in any new shoes BEFORE your trip. When I first got my leather huaraches (one of the pairs I’m bringing along), I would get TERRIBLE blisters just walking to class—and Illinois Wesleyan is an extremely small campus. However, once the leather stretched out completely, they quickly became one of my most comfortable shoes.

When packing shoes, I have a shoe bag that I use for extended  trips. Since it leaves a lot of  excess room, I fill it with pajamas, workout clothes, underwear, and socks. I stuff the socks into the shoes, put underwear into a pouch, and fill the top with the other clothes. This way, I do not waste space in my suitcase.


These two large bags, once filled, will take up only part of the bottom half of my suitcase. That’s it! I personally find clothing to be the most stressful part of packing. If you have any questions about this post, leave a comment down below, and I will get back to you as soon as possible!

Check back soon for Part Three, where I will discuss technology & school items.


Study Abroad in a Carry-On: WHY? (1/7)

Time February 5th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

“Are you excited to go to Peru?!”

“Yeah, I’m just a bit stressed about the packing. I’m only bringing a carry-on, and I want to leave some space in my suitcase, so I’m just trying to narrow down my items.”

“Why ON EARTH would you do that to yourself? You do know that international flights get a free checked bag, right? What are you going to do about shampoo?”


As I revealed in my last post, people have certain reactions when I tell them about my choice to study abroad. I’ve also determined that I can expect them to respond with a wild, crazed look when I tell them that I intend to pack everything in a carry-on.

On commercial flights, you are typically allowed to bring two pieces of hand luggage. One is stowed in the compartment above your seat, and its dimensions can be no bigger than 22”x14”x9”. The second piece is called a “personal item,” and it is stowed underneath the seat in front of you. This piece is usually a backpack, purse, briefcase, or laptop bag. Bringing these items on board is typically included in the price of your ticket, unless you fly some budget airlines like Spirit or RyanAir.

If you would like to bring a larger piece of luggage, you may, but you will have to surrender it to the airline staff when you check in for your flight. This luggage will be placed in the bottom of the plane in the cargo hold, and you will have to wait and claim it at the luggage carousel whenever you reach your destination. Checked luggage incurs a fee on domestic flights, but is sometimes free for international trips on certain airlines such as Copa, United, American, and Delta.

So, you’re taking a five-month trip. If the checked bag is free, why not use it? While I’m not telling you that you can’t bring a checked bag, I think that it is unnecessary and cumbersome. In the series to come, I will show you the benefits of going carry-on only and will give you my best advice for how to diminish your packing list for a semester abroad.


Probably. But first, let me paint a couple of real-life scenarios that I have witnessed:

One summer I was traveling in a group of eighteen people. We were on our way to a mission trip, and we missed our connection to our destination country. Since the trip was scheduled to last ten days, it was important that we get to our final destination as soon as possible. Finding a cohesive flight for eighteen people was a logistical nightmare, and the best course of action for the group was to fly to a different country, spend the night there, and reach our destination the next day.

The time before our new flight was limited, so we rushed to the gate. Once we arrived to the new country, we noticed that our checked bags had not been forwarded to our destination. We picked them up to go through customs, but three bags were missing. It was late, and we assumed that they would greet us at our destination.

After another day of traveling, however, we arrived without a trace of the lost bags. We contacted the airline, waited, and finally came to the conclusion that the bags were still in the U.S. They never made either flight due to the short notice of the new itinerary.

Three people were without their bags for an indefinite amount of time. All of them had packed their clothes in those bags. One girl even packed her toothbrush in her checked luggage.

The days persisted, and the three were miserable. Their clothes were dirty. One man even ripped his pants! With nothing else to wear, he had to borrow someone else’s jeans. Three days later (and almost halfway through the trip!), they finally received their bags.

During another group mission trip, I had two friends sharing a room together. I was the lucky duck who got her own room, so I had the opportunity to spread out my things. Our accommodations had closets to store our clothing, so we took advantage of that luxury. The only downside was that the beds were low to the ground, so storing them underneath wasn’t an option. Everything was fine and dandy until I decided to visit my friends’ room.

There was NOWHERE to walk. Their room was just as big as mine, yet it felt cramped. I quickly realized that the space issue was due to the fact that my friends had brought six bags between the two of them. SIX! Four of these were suitcases. They brought so many clothes that the closet was overflowing. If each of them had only brought a carry-on, there would have been plenty of room.

Rooms here in the States are very spacious. Remember that your host family might not have any space to store your luggage, so it’s best to keep it to a minimum.

I tell you these stories out of inspiration for any of your future travels. I have been abroad enough times to know that carry-on bags are the way to go. Over the next few weeks, I will show you my bags and what I’m taking with me to Peru. During each of my posts, I will give more reasons why you should seriously consider going carry-on only during your upcoming adventure.



Time February 1st, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Peru | No Comments by

“You’re studying abroad this semester?”

“Yup, I don’t leave until February 16th.”

“So, you’re just hanging out until you leave? That must be nice.”

“Yeah. It’s crazy that everyone will be taking midterms by the time I start my program.”

“Well, consider yourself lucky. I already have an exam tomorrow!”

IWU to Peru


When I tell people that I’m studying abroad this semester, I can expect certain reactions. Students wistfully tell me that I am lucky, as they assume that I will be traveling every weekend, taking blowoff classes, and partying with foreigners. On the contrary, when I tell adults, most seem genuinely interested and excited for this wonderful opportunity that awaits me. That is, until I mention that I’m not studying in Western Europe, but rather in a developing country. As soon as they hear that I have chosen to study in Peru, the spark fades from their eyes. Wallowing concern floods their eyes, convinced that I have opted for certain death. “Be careful,” they whisper as they walk away, shaking their heads in disappointment.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that both of these approaches to a semester abroad are skewed. I didn’t choose Peru due to its low drinking age or unstable government. Although my reasons for choosing this particular area are mixed, studying in Peru is the best decision for my personal goals.

My name is Julia, and I’m an International Studies major at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois, which also happens to be my hometown. Although studying abroad is a requirement for my major, I probably would have opted to have this experience anyway. Within my major, I have a concentration in Development Studies, which means that I take classes that focus on the political and cultural environment of the Developing World. Since my second language is Spanish, the most obvious region for studying abroad was Latin America.

However, even though many of my peers in the International Studies program also have  a concentration in Development Studies, most of them still choose to study in Western European countries. Although I understand that Western Europe has much to offer, I have never found it to be very appealing. I mean, EVERYBODY seems to be studying in Western Europe, and EVERYBODY seems to return with this “super great experience that totally expanded their horizons and helped them become a more well-rounded, cultured individual.” And while I’m not knocking or diminishing their semester by any means, it all seems a little manufactured. Western Europe is fairly safe, has mostly recognizable foods, and is culturally very similar to the United States.

And if I am going to say that I know ANYTHING about the Developing World, if I will say that I am truly willing to help alleviate poverty or do anything remotely beneficial, I believe that I need to actually live in the area. People are full of good intentions, but until they are willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of world change, nothing will really ever happen.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that anybody needs my help or that I’m inherently better because I come from a rich country. Quite the contrary. All I know is that the world’s system is messed up, and if I can make even a grain of positive difference, I want to spend my life doing just that.

Even though I will be studying in the Peruvian capital of Lima, which is a wealthy metropolis, the city still has its issues that will help increase my understanding of the Developing World. The water supply is not safe to drink, most households do not have clothes dryers or dishwashers, and living conditions are not always sanitary. Going to Peru will push me outside of my comfort zone, and I couldn’t be more excited.



I already have a bit of experience with living in developing countries, so I want to ease the qualms that come with traveling, living in a foreign country, and navigating a completely different way of life. I’ve done mission work in Haiti and Peru, and the longest I’ve ever stayed abroad was for nearly two months in Peru. So while I will not be taking this journey with completely fresh eyes, I want to break down common misconceptions and concerns that follow life abroad by offering a mixture of past and future experiences.

This blog is not intended to be a diary. If that’s what you want, feel free to check out the other student blogs. Instead, I want to offer my best tips and advice to studying abroad, all through the lens of my adventures in Peru. The posts that follow will be specific to IFSA-Butler and the experience of studying abroad. If you would like to follow me more in depth, I have a personal blog that discusses mission work, travel tips, and aspects of faith. On that blog, I will be posting at least once per week. I encourage you to check it out at

As for this blog, in the next few days I will be starting a seven-part series on the topic of packing for your study abroad program. I’m truly grateful for you to be joining me on my journey!