Gianna Macri's Experience in Peru
She has taken a demanding course load of computer science, linguistics, languages, and engineering. She walked onto the varsity crew team her freshman year. She interned each of the last four summers at IBM, GE and Amazon.
Gianna Macri '19 is always willing to take on a new challenge, and she did it again last fall when she studied abroad in Peru.
“This was my first time outside the United States or Canada, and it was an amazing experience,” says Macri, a computer science major. “I gained a better understanding of the culture and history of another country, as well as improving my Spanish. I also experienced for the first time the feeling of being foreign to the place in which I lived - I looked and sounded different from everyone around me. This can be challenging, but I think it's something you can learn a lot from with an open mind.”
Unlike many of the other Hajim School students who study abroad, Macri was not worried about finding courses in Peru that could count towards her major. Instead, she took courses for her studies in Take 5, the unique University of Rochester program that allows students to spend an additional semester or school year, tuition-free, pursuing an avenue of research that broadens their liberal arts education. Macri’s topic: "Intercultural Contact and its Effects on Indigenous Language and Culture in Peru."
“I studied abroad with SIT (School for International Training) in Cusco, Peru,” Macri explains. “Classes were with the study abroad program, with some at UNSAAC (Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad de Cusco), and an independent study project, for which I spent a few weeks living in Taquile, Peru, doing fieldwork.”
SIT is not a UR-affiliated program, so Macri had to fill out the program application on her own, and also apply separately to the program for financial aid. Even so, “it was pretty easy,” Macri says, “and I did have my financial aid counselor here at UR help me with the (financial) application.”
Some of her best memories from Peru are of the times she spent with “wonderful host families” in Cusco and in Taquile during her independent study. “I attended events from religious services to school events for my host sisters, to a wedding and the swearing-in of newly elected local politicians,” Macri said. Also memorable was an exhibition of traditional dances from different parts of the Andes; she happened upon it while walking one evening in downtown Cusco.
During her travels around southern Peru, she saw condors in Colca Canyon, hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, and caught a glimpse of river otters in the Peruvian Amazon.
In Taquile, the primary language was not Spanish but Quechua.
“I would definitely advise students studying abroad to make every effort to learn and use the language of the people around you,” she says. “The difference in the reaction you get when addressing a person in their native language, rather than asking them to make the effort to speak yours, is obvious.”