DofE Award Participant at internship in Peru: Don’t be afraid of a new environment!

DofE Award Participant at internship in Peru: Don’t be afraid of a new environment!

From Award Units

23. February 2015

Eliška Kojanová, eighteen-year-old Gold Award Participant from České Budějovice, is living proof that you can go for a long-term stay abroad already before your school-leaving examination. Inspired by her big sister Anna, who had a similar experience in Taiwan, she decided to go on a student exchange to Peru. As a result, she is spending this entire school year in South America through Rotary International.

Eliška arrived in Lima, the capital of Peru, in late July 2014. “The start was a bit complicated. I arrived in a new country, an entirely different culture, among people I had never seen, who were to become my new family. On top of that, there was a new school where I did not have a single friend and, in particular, there was a new language,” Eliška describes her feelings on arrival. However, today she is more than happy and says that Peru has become her second home. She lives in a local family that has accepted her as its member, has lots of friends from the entire world, already understands the language and is enthusiastically discovering the local culture.

From August, she studied at a secondary school in Lima. She is now spending her holidays in Cuzco, the former capital of the Inca Empire, which lies more than three thousand metres above sea level in the South American Andes. The historical centre of the town is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and Eliška says it is indeed beautiful. The most exciting experience for her has been a trip to the ruins of Machu Picchu, the Inca cult city, about which she says: “It is an exceptional and magical place, which radiates ancient history. It was an amazing experience, even though we climbed to the summit of Machu Picchu in heavy rain and heat at five in the morning.”

From March, Eliška will study at university. At the same time, she is busy with her DofE Award activities. Within the Skills Section, she is working on her Spanish. Before leaving for Peru, she knew only the basics of the language, but now she understands nearly everything and can communicate without any difficulties. She also plans to study the most commonly-used native language – the Quechuan. Despite her many activities, she is not neglecting Physical – she goes to the gym or jogging several times a week. She is also engaged in Service, for which there are many opportunities there. For example, she helped in the desert town of Ica, which had recently been destroyed by an earthquake. Eliška also helped prepare a charitable event aimed at supporting poor families from a Lima suburb and collected money for cancer treatment.

Life in Peru is very different from life back home in the Czech Republic. Eliška has had to get used to the local city transport having no timetables or local people being always late, sometimes by as much as an hour. What has surprised her most was the stark contrast between poverty and wealth there. “Within a stone’s throw from the modern city centre with skyscrapers there are slums with shacks that have no supply of electricity or water,” she describes.

What would Eliška like to say to other young people who are hesitating whether to go abroad? “Don’t be afraid of the language, new environment or having to leave your family and friends for a while. You will learn the language fast, will adapt to the new environment and will find lots of new friends from the whole world who will always be happy to see you. Moreover, you will learn to be independent and will mature.” The first step to becoming independent may be a Residential Project of the DofE Award.

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