Being A Non-Traditionally Aged Student Abroad
For starters, I’m not old. But for the majority of students that I am studying with in Cusco, Peru, I kind of am. My childhood era music includes Spice Girls, Smashmouth, The Killers, and MGMT…in that order. On the flip side, I learned what trap music was about three months ago and I have a running list on my phone entitled “millennial sayings” which includes phrases and words like ‘salty,’ ‘casual,’ and ‘took an L’ (I’m still confused as to how to use that one). Eight years can make a big difference in cultural references and sometimes my peers are shocked at my ignorance about pop stars, texting abbreviations and memes.
But their reactions towards me are nothing new because back at my home university, I am also the oldest kid in most of my classes. There are times when being 27 in a group of 19-year-old’s is frustrating, but those moments are few and far between.
If I am frustrated, it’s simply because they haven’t had the experiences yet that allows them to relate to certain aspects of my life. I’ve already been through a couple of serious relationships, traveled quite a bit, and worked a full-time job for the past nine years. And the fact that I’m encroaching 30 has lately been a relentless, pestering thought. So yes, there are moments when the people I am with simply cannot relate to me…yet.
However, I love being around this pre-20 age group. They keep me young, light-hearted, and it’s a constant reminder of just how much our perspectives evolve as we get older.
Living with younger students is great!
Before coming to Cusco, I had noise-canceling headphones on my list because I was so worried about being around a bunch of kids that would be partying every night and coming back loud and late. I could not have been more wrong! I live with two other girls in an apartment on the top floor of a small hotel. They are extremely respectful, clean and studious. I think I actually go out dancing more nights than them! Luckily, I was never willing to cough up the $100+ for those headphones.
Younger students are more mature than I expected
At my university in Maine, some of the 19-year-olds can be a little too dramatic for me, but I have found that the 10 other people who chose to study in Peru for a semester are probably some of the most mature students back at their own universities. After all, going through the application process for a study abroad program and committing to a country you’ve never been to before takes a significant amount of will-power, independent research, and work. So, it’s not surprising that the people who ended up in this program with me are responsible, open-minded and intelligent.
It’s rewarding to watch the younger students grow
It has also been extremely rewarding to watch my peers evolve as some of them are having their first experiences outside of the United States. During the first week, I watched one of my peers refuse to eat a piece of chicken because it was green from being cooked in cilantro and other herbs. Now, she eats everything and even takes food off our plates that we don’t like! My roommate was very shy about practicing Spanish when we first arrived and now, she always sits in the front seat of the taxi so she can engage the driver in Spanish and ask about his life.
And I’m growing too!
And I am having my own revelations as well. Studying and traveling a year before graduation has emboldened me to extend this abroad experience into a master’s program. Living in Cusco and speaking Spanish on a daily basis has really inspired me to look at graduate programs outside of the United States.
27 is actually a great age to study abroad because I find myself more than ever thinking about how I want to construct my future. This time in Cusco has allowed me to take a step back from my life and figure out what I want to change. And being around all these youngins’ has made me realize how fast time is moving and how important it is that I really start to consciously think about my future.
Interested in heading to Peru? Check out all our program offerings in Cusco.