Peru SST coordinator Celia Vasquez and her husband, Oswaldo Aguirre, made the flight from Peru to the Midwest to experience the Goshen area, speak in several classes, and reconnect with old acquaintances.
This was Vasquez’s first visit to Goshen in over 10 years, and Aguirre’s first time out of his home country.
While visiting, Vasquez and Aguirre partook in a number of activities around the Goshen area, as well as some day trips to nearby sites of interest, such as Lake Michigan. Their visit also fell during an exciting time to experience an American pastime at its peak, as they watched and celebrated the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win.
Vasquez and Aguirre stayed with a couple of host families during their week, who showed them some other attractions around Goshen. When the couple wasn’t sightseeing, they were on campus taking tours or giving guest lectures in several classes. As university level professors in their home country, the two felt comfortable in front of several classes of Goshen students.
They spoke in two Spanish classes, taught by Dean Rhodes, professor of Spanish. In these classes, they played various games in Spanish to work on students’ vocabulary. They also discussed going to foreign countries as a Goshen student, specifically if one was going to Peru on SST.
In higher-level classes, they spoke about educational and cultural issues in both the U.S. and Peru.
“It was good to see Celia again – the first time since I visited Lima as part of my job as temporary director in the SST office probably five years ago,” said Rhodes. “I was especially happy to see Oswaldo, Celia’s husband who has been denied a U.S. visa to visit the U.S., on several past occasions.”
Vasquez became the Study- Service Term (SST) coordinator for Peru in 2005 when the first unit of Goshen students arrived for SST. Her connection to Goshen College started five years earlier, when she brought a small group of Peruvian grade-school students to visit Iowa Mennonite School, where she met Rhodes.
In the time leading up to the formation of the Peru unit, Vasquez served as a coordinator for several other trips between the states and Peru, including an “SST trial run” to Peru in 2004. Before this time period, Vasquez had anticipated a program such as SST to occure in Peru.
“I was ready for something that would be able to combine my knowledge of the language, culture and the country, as well as my relationships in Lima,” Vasquez said.
As coordinator, she is in charge of many of the logistics that are involved in the Peru unit, especially those within the nation’s capital, Lima, where students spend their first 6 weeks studying. Vasquez was responsible for contacting many original host families in Lima, made through her personal connections with the families.
“It’s a wonderful ‘gift’ to speak another language, and it opens up the world to meeting people, like Celia and Oswaldo,” Rhodes said about the couple’s visit to his classroom and how it affects his students. “[This] experience can reshape and broaden our understanding of other cultures and viewpoints.”