Before coming to Peru, I had never been outside of Europe, and never been out of the UK without my parents, so both me and my parents were worried about me coming here on my own. I chose to go with a company for my elective because I wanted to know that everything would be organised for me, and I didn’t have to worry about finding accommodation etc. I came out to Peru without anyone I knew from England, but since being here have made many friends, and have been living with other medical students who I already have plans to meet up with back in the UK.
I’m living in an apartment complex within walking distance of the town centre. There are other English-speaking medical students living in the same complex, and the landlord here, Javier, speaks really good English and is always around if there are any problems. The apartment complex is safe, with a main locked gate off the road, then another locked gate down to the apartment I’m staying in, which has a locked front door. There is also wifi in the apartment, which has made Skyping my parents much easier.
Cusco is safe. There are lots of tourists about, so all the guidebooks say that there are pickpocketers about, but I think during the day as long as you keep an eye on your belongings you won’t have any problems. Also, if you’re travelling alone in the dark, it’s always advisable to take a taxi, and they’re cheap here.
I imagine you have read about the different trips that are included in this elective on the website. As I’ve mentioned already, I came to Peru on my own, but I’ve always been on the trips with other medical students. Also, transport between the accommodation and wherever the transport is to the trips, is provided.
There will probably already be some students here, so they will know how to get to the hospital and where to go within the hospital, but if not, then someone from Mundo Verde will sort all that out. Dr Silva, the tutor, speaks English, and is lovely. He encourages you to do the examinations, and asks what your treatment plan would be.
The level of Spanish isn’t important as far as being able to live here is concerned. I personally have some Spanish, but most people who come have little to no Spanish. One of the boys who lives upstairs had no Spanish when he arrived here, but after three weeks of lessons can now conduct a Spanish conversation amazingly well.
The thing I found the hardest here was the altitude. I have asthma, and have had more problems breathing here, but as long as I take it steady and have my inhaler to hand, I’m OK; I was even able to do the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. For the altitude I would say whenever you’re coming into Cusco from anywhere else, allow yourself time to adjust, and accept that things here happen at a more relaxed pace; what I think is going to take me ten minutes to walk usually takes me double that, and I need more sleep here. Pablo is very flexible with the timetable, so if you need to take time off from hospital or move some trips if your are not feeling well, that’s not a problem.
I have to admit, when I first arrived here I was terrified. Not because I felt unsafe, but because it was something I’ve never done before. But I can honestly say it has been the best experience of my life, and I feel I’ve really grown as a person throughout the 5 weeks I’ve so far spent here.
If you want to see my take on things here, I’ve been writing a blog, megansdaysofsummer.wordpress.com, which mainly talks about food and the trips, but has lots of photos and videos about Peru and the elective.