Climb a 20,000 foot mountain, Couchsurf for the first time, travel the distance of across the continental US and back, gallop a horse, learn about cocaine and coffee, sleep in an oasis, meet worldwide friends, see a firework show that puts the 4th of July to shame, learn to cook Peruvian dishes, visit two wonders of the world, meet an amazing girlfriend, mountain bike the death road, thinly escape getting mugged, learn Spanish, get salmonella, duck at the sounds of gunshots, visit the world’s deepest canyon. While none of these adventures were directly related to my research internship, all of these experiences were fringe benefits of the trip.
It all began when I learned about the “Honors Experience Scholarship” offered through the University Honors College. This scholarship awards honors students up to $2000 to assist with fees or expenses associated with an internship or study abroad experience. I knew that $2000 could last me a long time in South America, and giddy with excitement I began obsessively searching for a way to make this dream a reality.
I knew from a previous experience studying in New Zealand, that study abroad programs can be expensive and include unnecessary additions like trips; weekly meetings; assistance with class registration, transferring credits, obtaining a visa, booking flights, and getting safely home from the airport. I successfully avoided these fees (and gained multiple responsibilities and problems) when I studied in New Zealand for a year for the same price it would cost to stay at Oregon State for a year (including airfare, meals, housing, transportation, books, tuition, etc.). To give you the short story, I achieved this by eating cheaply, drinking box wine (the alcohol with the most affordable standard drink to price ratio), hitchhiking instead of bussing or driving, using library books instead of buying, eating dinner and living for free through my job at a student living village, and doing all of the above mentioned planning a study abroad program would assist with. I don’t regret studying in New Zealand without a company, but be forewarned that working with admissions when transferring credits back to OSU can be a persnickety process indeed. For instance, it took me 5 months and multiple petitions to correct the transfer evaluation in which admissions awarded me 20 credits fewer than what I had earned and regarded multiple upper-division New Zealand credits as lower-division OSU credits. I also had a difficult time making certain courses fulfill their OSU counterparts. Nevertheless, with enough time and stubborn persistence I successfully appealed these miscalculations.
With the expensive prospect of studying abroad out, I began looking for alternative ways to get down to South America whilst still earning OSU credit (which is a requirement for this scholarship). I ended up in the office of Dr. Nicole von Germeten who after an hour of discussion agreed to send me South looking for books, articles, and police reports, from any National and University libraries regarding colonial prostitution in all of Latin America (which is the topic of her upcoming book). The time period of the investigation was huge (1580-1820), and my choices of destinations was only bounded to Latin America. I decided that Bolivia, Perú, and Ecuador would be the most exciting and economical countries to visit.
Another requirement of the Honors Experience Scholarship is that students write a blog about their journey. In the following posts you’ll find everything from interesting food combinations from the countries I visited (along with some recipes); tips I’ve picked up regarding traveling, Couchsurfing, living in a hostel, commuting by bus, how to avoid getting mugged or robbed, learning a language, what to pack and not pack; interesting anecdotes about my research; and other general insights from my experience in South America.