Nerves turned to excitement slightly past 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon as the bus carrying the spring 2009 S.S.T. group from Peru arrived home.
"It's just a weird experience," said Luke Woodworth, a sophomore, as he described the group's arrival. "You get off the bus and people are yelling. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. I had lots of butterflies."
According to Chase Snyder, a junior, "people were even jumping onto the side of the bus."
The group started off the Study-Service Term experience a bit haphazardly when Brian Martin and Emily Miller both misplaced their passports en route to Peru. After the six weeks of study in Lima, the capital of Peru, and six weeks of service in various locations, the group met in Kawai for their final project presentations and "reverse culture shock" preparation. Though it was a relaxing four days, complete with swimming, soccer and crimson sunsets, the majority of the group was ready to return home.
Some, however, have yet to return. Four sophomores, Jesse Bontrager, Audrey Engle, Christa Graber and Emily Miller are remaining in South America for two more weeks for additional traveling. Additionally, Ross Weaver, a junior, is traveling for three months, and planning to attend the Mennonite World Conference gathering in Paraguay in August.
The 14 recently returned students are full of stories. For example, on their first night of service, Dietrich Eitzen, a junior, and Bontrager talked with the local police on behalf of the town for permission to see a movie outside. "Our host families said the police would allow them to show the movie if they saw us there too," Eitzen said.
Many of the Study-Service Term students look different – some have haircuts and most are tanner – but according to some of the S.S.T students, those who've been on campus this semester look different as well.
"Everyone seems stressed out and kind of unhealthy," said Eitzen, "and everyone's really busy."
The leaders of the spring 2009 Peru S.S.T. group, Alex Naula and Julia Adams, are staying in Peru for several more weeks to orient the new leaders for the summer S.S.T. to Peru.
Jerrell Richer, associate professor of economics, and his family will be the new leaders for the summer, spring and fall S.S.T. groups in Peru.
For the people anticipating upcoming S.S.T. experiences, Eitzen offered some advice. "I'd encourage people to really enjoy the experience for what it is, because it will be gone before you know it."