On January 13, ten students and two Campus Ministry staff members flew to Lima, Peru for a social justice immersion trip. Leaving the frozen Minnesota tundra for warm, sunny Peru may sound like a vacation for many, but this group did not waste any time lounging. They stayed in four different cities over 17 days where they explored diversity, joined in social justice work with the Sisters of St. Joseph and learned about the impacts of history on society and culture.

Sam Kelly, Campus Minister for Social Justice, said, “We had a lot of goals for this trip but the main purpose was to connect the social justice issues students saw in Peru to their faith lives.  We wanted to help students think about social justice and faith in a different way, by bringing them to a different place and exposing them to justice issues that were different but have similarities to justice issues in the United States.”

The first city they visited was Lima, Peru’s capital, where they spent four days with the CSJ’s, who live and work in an area of Lima called Canto Chico.

“We went to a poor neighborhood called ‘Canto Chico’ where we met young children. I’ll always remember the love and enthusiasm they showed every time we did something small with them. They were so thankful for everything and were always smiling. I never want to forget the way these children live. I wish more of us could learn from them. When I returned I was a lot more thankful for all the things I have in life and am more kinder I am to people—even people who may annoy me,” said Andrea Duarte ’19, Political Science major and peer minister, who went on the trip.

From Lima, the group flew to Cuzco where they spent one night before taking a bus and train to Aguas Calientes, which is the city at the base of the famous Machu Picchu ruins. They toured Machu Picchu before returning to Cuzco for several days. In Cuzco, they visited several ancient Incan historical and archaeological sites, where they learned how much of Peru’s modern sociocultural realities are a result of historical systems.

“Through conversation, we tried to connect the justice issues to the faith lives of students enabling them to live their faith by working for justice… The reflections with students were always amazing. We were there when President Trump was sworn in and the combination of that event and the things we were experiencing there made for some powerful sharing.  I was impressed with everyone on the trip and so grateful for the community we built,” said Kelly.

From Cuzco, the group traveled to the city of Puno, bordering Lake Titicaca, where they stayed at the Maryknoll House, with a Maryknoll Brother and Sister, for the remainder of the trip.

The Maryknoll House is an organization promoting outreach of Catholic Social Teaching with a focus on healthcare, education, civil and human rights, ministry and sustainable development of the poor. They strive to develop community and faith through learning and work closely with the University of Altiplano in Puno. The Maryknoll House stay encouraged St. Kate’s travelers to serve and develop connections with Peruvian locals.

“We were tourists half the time, but throughout other times we were volunteers, we were playing with children and talking to them about their culture and ours, we had food with the local people, we truly tried to be almost-like citizens. The reason behind this is because I truly think when we connect with people and their culture, we’re able to make lasting relationships,” said Duarte.

While their J-Term trip to Peru was shorter than a semester abroad, it was clear that the trip had a lasting impact on the students.

“I’ve always had an idea of what I want my future career to be. Going to Peru was a reminder of why I truly want to go into journalism and politics. Stories that I heard from indigenous Peruvians made me want to share their stories so others who aren’t from the area know the way the live and how the United States relates to how some Peruvians live,” said Duarte.

Veronika Paprocka ’17, history major, shared that not only did she gained a deeper appreciation for public history, but that this experience influenced her perspective for her future as well. “One of my goals for this trip was to figure out what I wanted to do after graduation, I told myself that I have to figure it out by the time I get back to Minnesota. My strategy worked and now I’m rather certain of what I’ll be doing…and so glad that I could make that decision on this trip.”

In terms of future trips, Sam Kelly has high hopes, “We see this as a sustainable trip that we can offer again.  We want to offer this experience every other year and I think it is really possible.” He and Duarte both agreed that St. Kate’s students should take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad while in college.

“Some trips are a once in a lifetime experience! If your mind and heart continue to urge you to think about the trip then you should literally go with what your heart and mind wants. Even if you can’t afford it, there is always a way to pay for it!” said Duarte.

In short, Katies, keep your eyes out for future abroad opportunities to immerse in culture, service and faith with Campus Ministry!