“I think it just describes a silly side of me and shows how much fun I was having on that trip,” says Human Development and Family Sciences senior Marissa Ching. “The first time you visit Machu Picchu is magical, and I am so blessed to have experienced it.”
Marissa is describing the photo that won her first place in the International Degree and Education Abroad, or IDEA’s, 2012 study abroad photo contest. The photo (on the right) depicting Marissa posing in front of Machu Picchu won her the “Beavers Abroad” category meant to highlight Oregon State students out in the world.
She chose to study in Peru in part to help with her Spanish minor, but also because she wanted to try something different. Many of her fellow students were planning on studying in Spain, but Marissa felt it would be too similar to America.
“I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and do things I wouldn’t normally do,” she says. “I also wanted to go to a developing country where I could take advantage of various volunteering opportunities.”
On top of taking classes and traveling in her spare time, Marissa, who hopes to be an elementary school teacher, volunteered in a fourth grade classroom every Friday morning.
“It was challenging to work with students in a foreign language, but at the same time, my vocabulary significantly improved,” she says. “This experience just proved to me that I could do it, and it has inspired me to work with Latino families here in America.”
While in Peru, she also helped build homes with an organization called Un Techo Para Mi Pais.
“I’ve never seen poverty like this before, so it really opened my eyes to a developing world,” she says.
It only took Marissa and her team one day to build an entire home for her first project in a very poor area of Lima. During her second weekend volunteering, she became attached to the family for whom they were building the home.
“I believe the people of Peru are what made my experience so unforgettable,” she says.
It was her host mom and a 19-year-old maid, who was more of a sister to Marissa, who made the biggest impact on her life.
“They’ve taught me how to be strong, smart and independent,” she says. “They even inspired me to become a better woman. I think about them every day.”
Marissa hopes her photo will help inspire fellow students to study abroad in Peru, a place she describes as “such a fascinating country with so much history and phenomenal culture.”
“Peru has changed my life and the way I view myself and others,” she says. “Visiting another culture and living their lifestyle makes you take a step back to view your own. You realize how lucky you are to live in a developed country, but at the same time you realize how much the American culture has impacted you.”
Marissa is scheduled to graduate from Oregon State in spring 2013 with a minor in Spanish and a bachelor’s degree in HDFS with an option in early childhood development. She plans on applying to a University of Oregon master’s program where she hopes to get her license to teach.
Once she’s completed her schooling, she’ll head back to Peru to volunteer and maybe even take on a teaching job.
“I hope to move there one day,” she says. “That’s how much I fell in love.”
More about the IDEA study abroad photo contest:
IDEA holds the photo contest annually to inspire other students to participate in study abroad by showcasing students’ brightest memories encapsulated in their photos. Students are given the chance to submit a photo in one of six categories to express what they got out of their experience and to highlight that they participated in such an enriching opportunity. Photos are displayed for one week in the OSU Library, during which time the public can vote for their favorite in each of six categories (People, Culinary Delights, The Natural World, Architecture, Beavers Abroad, and In the Classroom). At the end of the week, the votes are counted and a winner is chosen for each category.
IDEA recognizes the winners of each category by sending a plaque with the photo to both the student and their department to be displayed with the hope of inspiring another generation of students to continue their education through one of OSU’s 300+ approved scholastic programs abroad.