Even when I was thinking about a semester abroad in the first semester, it was clear to me that I would like to spend a semester in a Spanish-speaking country. I would have liked to have spent a semester abroad in Seville, at the partner university of my FH, but I couldn’t go abroad for the winter semester. So I started looking for a suitable university in the Spanish-speaking area.
Since the Spanish universities almost always have an Erasmus program and therefore do not accept free movers, the choice fell on Latin America. I also found that it is much more difficult for architecture students to find a university abroad than for students of other courses such as economics, as this course is only offered at a few universities. But I finally found what I was looking for on the MicroEDU site. To apply, I had to submit a résumé, an overview of grades and a letter of motivation. As far as is concerned, the clocks tick a little slower than we are used to from Germany, which is why I only received my acceptance for the exchange program two months before the semester in Lima began. I booked my flight through Sta Travel, as there are often good student prices there.
Since I was so late, I was a little afraid that I would no longer find a nice place to stay in Lima. But this fear was completely unfounded, as there is really a large selection of student houses. In addition, the “ Universidad de San Ignacio de Loyola ” also offers its own student residence “La Casa de Don Ignacio”. The system of shared apartments as we know it from Germany does not exist in Peru. Peruvians usually stay with their parents during their studies and only move out when they get married. The students who do not come from the Lima area then either live with relatives or with Peruvian families and rent a room there.
For foreign students there are a variety of options: Apu, Inkawasi, Kusiwasi, La Jato, Amaru,… to name just a few. Of course there is also the possibility of staying with a Peruvian host family. I myself lived in La Jato in San Isidro. This is one of the safest and therefore most expensive areas of Lima. There are beautiful parks and apartment buildings here, but it is also the financial and business center of Lima. For me, the distance to the university was crucial when choosing an apartment. Lima is a huge metropolis and although I only had to take one bus, it took me between 30 minutes and an hour to get to university, depending on the traffic. The 19th of us lived in La Jato. This is of course a large “flat share” and sometimes it felt more like a hostel. But so there was always someone there to do something with. And if you didn’t feel like having company, you could very well retire to your room.
The Universidad de San Ignacio de Loyola is a private university. In fact, almost all of the colleges in Lima are private. That’s why I had to pay tuition fees of $ 4,000 for one semester. For Peruvian students, the tuition fees are a little lower, but still immense compared to the minimum wage. The university consists of two campuses, but they are very close to each other. Each campus has at least one freely usable computer room, a cafeteria, a shop where you can buy books, etc. In general, the university is very well equipped, with projector, photo laboratory, computer rooms for lectures, etc. What I missed, however, was a workshop in which I could have built my models for my design course. It is true that there are freely usable workplaces that are then “abused” as workshops; Unfortunately, because of this, no tools are available.
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I first had to get used to the teaching structure, as the university’s system is very schooled. This means, for example, compulsory attendance in all courses. You were allowed to miss 30% per semester, including absenteeism due to illness. In addition, in my Spanish course, for example, I wrote internships with graded marks every week and a total of four exams during the semester. In addition, there is an intermediate semester exam in each course, as well as the final exam or final submission, of course. Since the Peruvians finish their schooling at the age of 16 and thus often go to university at the age of 17, this system is apparently necessary. Although the “Universidad de San Ignacio de Loyola” is apparently also an extreme example. Nevertheless, I generally liked the university. As an exchange student, you can choose courses from all subject areas. I chose Spanish, Photo I and a design course. The ratio of student and the professors I really liked. The mood in my courses was very relaxed, although I can’t tell whether that was due to my relatively practical courses. Often times, friends of mine in other courses had to give presentations in formal attire.
The support from the Internacional Office in Lima is very good. One employee is responsible for each exchange student. This means that they answer questions quickly and it is also no problem to just drop by. Unfortunately, I had some problems choosing a course because the list I had received from MicroEDU had been completely changed and I was therefore unable to take many courses that I had previously selected. With “only” three courses there was still enough free time to explore Lima. The USIL buddy program also helps here. It is not the case that every exchange student is assigned a buddy, but there is a group that organizes parties and excursions. So you can quickly come into contact with Peruvian and foreign students.
Especially in summer I found Lima to be his city with lots of activities and opportunities to pass the time. Lima has a beach, but the stone beach is not ideal for sunbathing. However, this can also be done on the beautiful beaches, which are about an hour from Lima. Since Lima is the capital, there is always something going on. There are many interesting museums, exhibitions and special events. For example a kind of “Night of the Open Museums” the “Noche en blanca”, during which all museums and galleries in Barranco, a district of Lima, were open. Various artists, whether musicians or performance artists, were able to show off their talent on the street. The nightlife in Lima is also diverse. Most bars and nightclubs are in Barranco and Miraflores; partly with sea view. And as an exchange student, it is also very easy to get on the guest list and thus not pay an entrance fee.
Of course, you also have to note that Peru is not as safe as Germany, for example. Driving a taxi alone as a girl is not such a good idea at night. In the non-touristy areas, it is always best if you are not alone. I had to get used to this fact because I couldn’t move as freely as in Europe, especially at night. Fortunately, nothing ever happened to me, and if you adapt a little, it’s not as dangerous as the Peruvians would like you to believe. Nevertheless, this insecurity or dependency probably bothered me most of all during my stay abroad.
Apart from that, I can warmly recommend Peru to everyone. Behind the traffic chaos, the dirt and the constant noise level there is a wonderful country with wonderful people.