A Not-so-typical Cultural Experience: The Business Spanish in Peru Travel Study Program
By Esther Joe and Shasha Du
Shellshock – it's five o'clock a.m. You've just arrived in Lima, Peru, and everything you see, hear, and read is in Spanish, which you last studied in high school over 10 years ago. You hand over your luggage to the cab driver and struggle to tell him where you’re going.
This instant immersion is what Shaumir Acharya experienced on UCLA’s “Business Spanish in Peru” Travel Study summer program. Shaumir, the Grant Operations Coordinator at the Anderson School of Management, was assigned to take part in the program last summer.
Four classes, taught in Spanish, make up the program. Communicative Grammar is designed to meet students' individual needs by teaching students in pairs according to proficiency. Spanish for Business focuses on writing resumes, giving presentations, and creating market strategies for mock companies in a Latin American context. The program also includes a class on Peruvian culture and another on Latin American culture, which includes media as source material. Although the program is recommended for Spanish speakers at an intermediate or advanced level, it can accommodate a range of student abilities.
For students seeking an immersion experience that combines rigor and friendliness, Lima is ideal. Spanish only is spoken both in and out of class. In addition, few locals speak English, so Shaumir was able to practice Spanish with locals in everyday settings including restaurants, shopping districts, and markets. “People are so nice and welcoming,” says Shaumir. “Even though there are 9 million people in Lima, it doesn’t feel like it. It’s not like New York City, Los Angeles, or even Buenos Aires.”
Shaumir and his classmates spent Fridays exploring Lima and nearby areas. The tour of Lima included an excursion to a clothing factory, where Shaumir had a chance to talk to employees in Spanish. He visited Incan ruins in Cusco and Machu Picchu, which he said was the highlight of his trip. In addition to its historic appeal, Peru is a favorite setting for lovers of sports and the outdoors, and Shaumir was able to go parasailing. Finally, Peru is affordable, giving students a chance to travel to other Latin American countries (Shaumir visited Argentina).
“[Peru is] for someone looking for something totally different … who actually wants to have an immersion experience. When you're in one city for an extended period of time, especially in such a different and rich culture, you really gain a love and fondness for that place and its people, cultures, and traditions – I certainly did.” Because of his experience, and his discovery of Latin America as a flourishing market for entrepreneurs, is considering a return to Latin America, this time as a businessman.
Published: Tuesday, January 13, 2009