Monday, September 5, 2011

My Study Abroad Program: ISA

I am studying abroad with a program called International Studies Abroad (ISA).

For a student studying abroad for the first time, or a student who has studied abroad before, but in a different country, I would highly recommend going through a program such as ISA!
- ISA has a staff here at each of the universities. The staff knows the area well and is incredibly helpful and usually young so they are very relatable. You will get to know the staff team right away! They are your go-to team for questions about anything at all (school, program, the city, travel, culture, etc.)
- Very helpful in setting up classes and working with the university. ISA has a working relationship with all of the universities which their students attend. For this, ISA helps students in choosing classes, placement in appropriate levels of courses, and any negotiating with faculty that is needed. For me, they have been a HUGE help even in only the first month of classes.
- Excursions! With my program, I have 4 excursions included. In my 5 months in Peru, I will have traveled to Machu Picchu in Cuzco, Junin (Andes Mountains and into the Central Jungle), Ica (Peruvian desert), and Iquitos (Amazon Rainforest) through ISA. These excursions are INCREDIBLE. We are always set up with some of the best accomodations and get to take part in AMAZING activities (like sandboarding on the desert sand dunes, hiking up Wayna Picchu which overlooks Machu Picchu, swimming with dolphins and fishing for pirhanna in the Amazon, etc.) These are truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences and they are all set up through ISA.
- Exchange activities with locals are set up for us throughout the weeks as well. We get a chance to experience fun and different things in Lima with local Peruvian students. This is a chance to get to know others outside of our university and program. Some of these activities have been: playing soccer with locals, traditional peruvian music and dance, surfing, etc.
- In-city excursions for the study abroad group is included. There is A LOT to see and do in Lima, and we get the chance to do all the "tourist-y" things with the group during the Lima excursion days. We will do things such as visiting historical sites, ancient ruins, parasailing, etc.
- The other students studying through the program will provide a GREAT group of friends! I was surprised when I came at how diverse the other American students all were, but we all bonded VERY QUICKLY. It is great to have them all here to go out with, and share in the amazing excursions and cultural experiences.
- Housing is also set up through ISA. I am living with a Peruvian host-family, which was already set up for me before I arrived. I completed a short survey on my likes/dislikes/etc. and ISA placed me with a house. My family speaks only Spanish and they are incredibly generous and hospitable! This is by far the best way to really immerse yourself in the Peruvian culture and best experience daily life in Peru! I would recommend this type of housing to EVERYONE interested in studying abroad!
- 3 Meals a day are provided 7 days a week by my host family. This is GREAT because with this, I am able to really experience Peruvian cuisine---and it is DELICIOUS! My family does an incredible job at getting us to try all sorts of new things and not miss out on any of the traditional Peruvian food.
- Safety and health is assured with ISA. ISA gives students invaluable advice for safety in the country. ISA also provides an incredible insurance program for health issues while abroad. Hopefully this will not be needed, but in the case that it is, ISA does all that they can to help their students with these issues.

The only cases where I would not recommend using a program would be to students who might already be familiar with the area. You might not need help getting set up with housing, and if you have already traveled to the excursion locations, it is typically less expensive to directly enroll in your chosen university. But if you are looking to revisit those locations or if you want help setting up housing, a study abroad program is great for this. With ISA, you can have flexible options as well with costs (for example: if there is an excursion which you have already been on and you would rather not go there twice, then the cost of that excursion is left out of your program payment).

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