Before I started my trip, I had completed the 4th Spanish course at my university, which was very helpful. It is not a matter of course in Lima that English is spoken. It is therefore advisable to acquire some knowledge of Spanish in advance.
For the first few days I have reserved a hostel in San Borja. Since the city was too big for me to assess in advance which location would be best for living, I first looked for a suitable room on site. But it is also quite possible to find a room in a student house or in a host family from Germany.
So, now a few words about the university. At first I was put off by the high tuition fees because I wasn’t used to paying so much money for a semester. But thanks to BAFöG abroad, I didn’t have to worry about it any further.
The university is located in the east of Lima, unfortunately quite far from the coveted districts of Miraflores and Barranco. Unlike in Germany, access to the university is not open, but there are controlled entrances where you can only enter with a student ID. In general, there are many more controls than I am used to from my university in Germany, be it at the entrance, during attendance or at graded reading controls during the semester. The university is clearly organized, there is even a separate office for exchange students who are the contact persons for organizational and private problems. I had to go there several times in the first week to choose my courses for the semester. Already in the application, months before my arrival in Peru, I had to create a ranking of 10 courses from the university’s course catalog, out of which I would take five. But for inexplicable reasons nobody there knew anything about it. In contrast to the other exchange students, there was initially no schedule for me.
Since there are events that start before 8 a.m. and sometimes end at 10:40 p.m. or take place on Saturdays, it is advisable to choose your courses carefully with regard to the time of the event. From Germany I was used to attending lectures with several hundred students. That is not the case at USIL. There are a maximum of 30 students in a course. Overall, everything seemed more like school to me. There is compulsory attendance, the professor asks questions and expects his students to actively participate. During the semester, I had a graded reading test, term paper or exam in my courses almost every week. That kept me on the ball the whole semester and made for one or the other long night. But there is no all-important exam at the end of the semester, but a final exam that only partially influences the grade. My contact from the university told me about previous exchange students who diligently collected points during the semester and completed the course with acceptable grades, even though they were already on vacation for the final exam.
The range of Spanish-language courses is significantly larger than that of the English courses. In addition, there are often more exchange students in the courses in English than Peruvian students. It’s different in the courses in Spanish, in my two transport courses I was the only international student. The teacher understood that my Spanish was very bad at the beginning and did not give me a deduction for my cryptic sentences in the exams. There is also a large number of free sports and leisure activities.
Life in Lima
After visiting a number of flat shares, I found a room in a student residence in Surco, for which I paid $ 220 a month. That didn’t quite meet my wish to live in a 3 or 4 person flat share, but something like that is very difficult to find. Most students live with their parents or relatives, as it is customary in Peru to leave home only after the wedding. Surco is a very safe and affluent area. There are many parks and an incredible number of people walking their dogs. As everywhere in Lima, there is a varied and inexpensive selection of food. In addition to KFC, McDonalds and other fast food chains, there are mainly many small restaurants that serve delicious lunch menus for little money. The traffic in Lima is incredible: very loud, chaotic and extremely slow at rush hour. The most popular means of transport is the bus. It’s very cheap and runs more or less regularly. In the first few weeks I had difficulties getting on the right bus at the bus stops, as many different buses stop and it is often not clearly indicated where the journey is going. But with a little Spanish it’s not a problem and the people were always very friendly and helped me to get off again at the correct stop. If you like to travel a little faster and more comfortably to your destination, take a taxi, which is not very expensive and can be found everywhere. The price has to be negotiated, so it is good to have a rough idea of how much the trip should cost.
Peru is an incredibly large and diverse country. There is coast, highlands with mountains above 6000m and tropical areas further inland. You won’t get bored there. I often traveled around the land of the Incas for a long weekend and spent many a night on the bus. The buses are usually very comfortable. Those who pay a little more get a seat in the lower part of the bus with a very wide leather seat that can be tilted up to 160 ° with a shelf for the legs and a blanket and pillow. In addition, you usually get a snack or, depending on the length of the journey, even a warmed up meal, similar to the one on the plane. We recommend the website “www.busportal.pe” where you can easily compare and book buses. For people who do not like to plan their trips alone, there is a wide range in various Facebook groups that offer day and weekend trips. These are specially designed for exchange students and are not particularly expensive. Sometimes the organization is not particularly professional, and neither is the guides. But they are often funny excursions where you meet a lot of new people and get to know Peru better.
- Learn more information about Peru and South America on themakeupexplorer.
All in all, the five months in Lima were a very enriching experience for me. If you want to progress in your studies, you should think twice about whether you want to study at USIL, but it is ideal for learning Spanish and getting to know Peru. Time goes by very quickly and I can only recommend planning a few more months to visit a few of the neighboring countries.