Where Will You Go This Summer?

Now’s the time to start planning ahead. Take a look at what we have on tap for Summer 2017 faculty-led programs!

Application deadline: March 15th


*Countries shaded in cobalt blue and teal are locations of summer programs

Not sure which program is right for you? Contact an advisor at studyabroad@towson.edu!

Q & A Spotlight: Jessa Coulter

Name: Jessa Coulter
Major: Psychology
Grad Year: 2012
Location: Peru
Program abroad: ISA

Volunteer Experience:

  • Students Helping Honduras – week long service trips: (January 2010, January 2011, January 2012, January 2013, January 2014)
  • Un Techo Para Mi Pais (Peru, October 2011)
  • Sonrisas en Peru Westfalia Orphanage (Peru, December 2011-January 2012)
  • Safe Passage (Guatemala, November 2013-Present)

Q: How is your study abroad experience different from your volunteer abroad experience?
Volunteering abroad has been quite different than studying abroad for me. In Peru, my study abroad program helped coordinate my classes, my homestay, and excursions to travel within Peru. In Guatemala, I am much more independent- I found my own housing, pay rent and monthly bills, and do my own shopping and cooking. I enjoyed living with a host family in Peru- it was actually one of the aspects of the program I was most excited about and I believe it deepened the cultural experience I had. However, now that I have graduated college, I do appreciate being more autonomous and living on my own in Guatemala.

I had more free time as a study abroad student- I was able to arrange my schedule so I take a full course load but only have classes three days a week. This allowed me the freedom to travel throughout Peru and explore Lima- where I was living.

Here in Guatemala, I lead week long service-learning trips for Safe Passage. When I am leading a team, I work seven days a week from 7am until 10pm. When I do not have a team, it is a more typical Monday through Friday job.

Q: How did you choose your location for study abroad and later for volunteer abroad?
To be perfectly honest,  I had no specific country in mind when I decided to study abroad. I knew I wanted to be in Latin America, but other than that, I did not have a strong preference. I spoke to different people, did research on various programs, and decided on the program in Peru.

For volunteering abroad, I again knew I wanted to be in Latin America, but rather than choosing by country, I focused on the various programs and volunteer positions available. I used the website idealist.org and searched for positions in Latin America. When I came across the posting for Safe Passage, it seemed like a perfect fit for me. I was impressed with the work that Safe Passage was doing- working to empower the poorest, at-risk families of the community of the Guatemala City Garbage Dump by creating opportunities and fostering dignity through the power of education. I definitely lucked out by finding Safe Passage, it is an incredible organization and I truly feel honored to be a part of the work that is being done in Guatemala.


Q: Have your experiences abroad met your expectations? Exceeded them?
Exceeded all expectations, for sure.

Q: What would you say to students worried / concerned / afraid of going abroad?
Going abroad can be difficult- in terms of studying abroad, it is definitely easier to stay at Towson than go through all the logistics of coordinating a study abroad experience. But easier does not mean better.

The opportunity to live and study abroad is somewhat unique to college students. I actually never had planned to study abroad. It wasn’t until a conversation with a friend one day that changed my mind. We were chatting about her incredible year studying abroad. She asked if I would study abroad and I told her I was happy at Towson and extremely busy with different organizations on campus and I could just travel after graduating. She replied, “Sure you can. But will you?” It was then that something clicked and I realized that the opportunity for this type of experience would pass if I did not take it in college.

Utilize the study abroad office- it is a great resource to navigate the process. It is very unlikely that at any other time in your life you will have people dedicated to helping you travel, study abroad, and gain invaluable experiences.

My first trip to Honduras opened my eyes to extreme poverty and left me feeling empowered me make a difference- which is what motivated me to continue on this journey of volunteering in the world of international development. Going abroad in any capacity will hopefully get you out of your comfort zone, try new things, and allow you to gain a more global perspective of the world.

Reaching new heights

We’re pleased to share this amazing story of Towson students abroad in Peru last summer, not just studying abroad but researching abroad.

During International Education Week here at TU you will have the opportunity to hear from both professor and students on their experience in Peru on Thursday, November 20 at 4:30 p.m. in Burdick Hall 113. Join us tomorrow in this celebration of travel and scholarship!

For the full story, visit Towson’s home page: http://www.towson.edu/main/stories/reachingnewheights.asp

Summer 2015 Faculty-Led Program: Tropical Field Ecology in Peru

Tropical Field Ecology in Peru

Cuzco, Peru

Courses: BIOL 447 Tropical Field Ecology OR  BIOL 547 Tropical Field Ecology (Graduate students only)

Fearless Leader: Dr. Harald Beck

Site visits: 3-day boat trip on the Manu River, visit to the lost city of Machu Picchu, a bus trip across the Andes mountain range, and numerous hikes and night-walks to explore the different local tropical habitats.

Did you know that Machu Picchu, stumbled upon in 1911 by an archaeologist, was voted one of the new 7 Wonders of the World!

To see the Horizons program page click here!

[Summer 2014] Peru: Life at the Top

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Check out more student photos from the journey to Peru in this post.


6-14-2014 from Prof. D

Our last day in Peru

I slept in till 7AM!!!!!- After taking a shower I headed up to the breakfast bar where enjoyed a continental breakfast that consisted of scrambled eggs, roll with butter and jam, cereal and watermelon juice. I then relaxed with my laptop and a cup of coffee on the deck and caught up on news, emails and updates to this blog. It was a nice way to spend the last morning in Peru; especially given how busy we had been for the last 9 days. There was nothing on the agenda until 11AM. At that time everyone checked out of the hostel and we reunited with Edwin. He gave us a brief tour of the Temple of the Sun (Coricancha), the most revered temple of the Incas, dedicated to the Inti, the Sun God. The Spanish would demolish the temple and build the Church of Santo Domingo. After an earthquake only the Inca stone walls (built of large, tightly-interlocking blocks of stone) remained. From the Temple of the Sun we moved on to Cusco Cathedral, which is located on the Avenida de Sol, the main road of Cusco. The massive structure took nearly 100 years to complete and it serves as the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cusco. As you can imagine it has a rich history. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside, so you will have to rely on google if you want to view the many artifacts and Colonial art. Better yet, if you have the means, go visit! Everyone left the church thoroughly impressed. We thanked Edwin and said goodbye. At this point we split up and searched for places to eat lunch. Some of us did some last minute souvenir shopping. I managed to enjoy one more stuffed avocado (is that 5?), the best one yet! By 4pm it was time to head to the airport to catch our 6:30 flight to Lima. We took off and landed without a hitch. In Lima, it was time to say goodbye to Jonny. I couldn’t thank him enough for all he had done; the translation, counting change, ordering food, offering worldly advice, etc. He is a professional and I can’t imagine pulling off this trip without him. I know the students agree. We wished him all the best and parted ways. We could handle it from here.

Unfortunately, our flight leaving Lima was delayed, causing us to miss our connection in Miami. Yes, while it was an inconvenience at the time and we were all frustrated, in the end it didn’t matter. Nothing could diminish our spirits at this point. The trip was a huge success and we all eventually made it home, safe and sound!

And it was good to be home!

6-13-2014 from Prof D.


It was another early wake up call (4AM) but no one appeared to be bothered by it. We had been waiting for this day with much anticipation- this was the day that we would finally see Machu Picchu! In order to see the “Lost City of the Incas” at sunrise it was imperative that we board one of the earlier buses transporting tourists to the top. We were standing on line by 4:30 and had managed to board the 2nd bus. Jonny was amazed that we were able to pull it off, given the size of our group (14 students + Roger, Wilbur, Jonny and me= 18 amigos). The bus took us up a series of switchbacks on our way to the top. Once we arrived we patiently waited in line for the gates to open. It was a cool morning, but that would soon change once the sun came up. At 6 am we walked through the gates and there it was-Machu Picchu! We had some time before sun rise so Roger gave us a tour around the ruins and pointed out all of the special features. The Incas were ingenious engineers. At around 7am the sun peaked out from behind the mountains! It was indeed spectacular! Awesome! Majestic! Mucho WOW!

We spent most of the morning walking around and taking pictures. By 10 am we were in line to hike to the top of Wanya (Huayna) Picchu, that small mountain overlooking Machu Picchu that is featured in so many photographs. It is said to be the home of Machu Picchu’s most important priests. Access to the trail is restricted to 400 visitors daily. In my opinion, a visit to Machu Picchu is not complete without climbing Wanya Picchu, so make sure you make a reservation well in advance. The climb is steep, narrow and rigorous at some points, but the entire experience was exhilarating! The view from the ruins on top is well worth the extra effort. This was the icing on the cake! At around 12:30 it was time to say goodbye to the Lost City. We boarded a bus and headed down to Aguas Calientes. We were a bit behind schedule so Roger had organized a take out lunch to ensure that we would make the 2:30 train back to Ollantaytambo. We did!

The train ride was tremendously satisfying because it marked a point in the trip when we could sit back, relax and marvel at all we had seen, heard, smelled, tasted and accomplished in such a short period of time. The train arrived in Ollantaytambo close to 4pm. We collected our bags and left the train (Prior to leaving for the hike Roger had distributed red duffel bags to each member of the group. We were instructed to fill them with our belongings and the porters would transport them along our trek.) Before heading toward the bus Jonny took a quick head count and bag count. Everyone was present but one bag was missing!! I initially thought it was not big deal- oh well, somebody lost some clothes, maybe some deodorant and a toothbrush. Yet, it was quickly revealed that inside the missing bag was the spirometer!!! I panicked. While the spirometer would be expensive to replace, I was more concerned with the fact that it contained all that data we collected from the porters and the students. All that hard work- nothing to show for it. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Jonny acted quickly. He called the restaurant from where we had picked up our lunch, he called the train station, we checked the train- no bag! Finally, he and Roger contacted the main office at Llama path to see if the tour group behind us had picked up the bag (remember, they were all the same!). This is where having a Spanish speaker really came in handy. Everyone was listening to his conversation, trying to discern what was being discussed. At one point I heard him spell the name of the student whose bag was missing. After what seemed like an hour long conversation Jonny hung up the phone and told us that another Llama path guide may have picked up the bag at the restaurant. But there was no way of confirming this until that guide arrived in Ollantaytambo and had cell phone service. This was a positive sign but we weren’t out of the woods yet. At this point there was nothing to do but to board the bus to Cusco and hope for the best. The mood was tense. No one spoke. Then about an hour into our journey, Jonny’s cell phone rang. He answered it and started to speak in Spanish. I listened intently, hoping to pick up any sign of good news. Then, after what seemed like another hour-long conversation, I heard Jonny say “PERFECTO”! I didn’t need a translation. The guide had found the bag and would be dropping it off in Cusco later that evening. The bus erupted in cheers. All was well again!

Later that evening we went out for dinner to celebrate. Peruvian pizza! There was music and dancing and toasting. The mood was pure jubilation.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what jubilation looks like.

6-12-2014 from Prof D.

If Wednesday was our challenge, Thursday was our reward! After 10 hours of mostly uphill hiking, it was all downhill from here. We were about to be treated to some marvelous views of the Sacred Valley. However, we did have some business to take care of before setting off on our hike for the day. At 5:30 AM we arouse from our tents so the students could complete their “step tests” at 3800m. A couple of the groups wanted to examine how altitude would impact one’s fitness capacity. Since we didn’t have access to a treadmill we needed to improvise, so we had carried with us two 16” step stools. They could be easily broken down and each student was responsible for taking one part. Before going to bed I had assembled them so they would be ready to go in the morning. I was a bit nervous because completing a 3-minute step test at 5:30 AM, at 3800meters, after an exhausting hike the day before was no small task. We had developed a systematic way of making sure everyone was tested in the shortest period of time so as not to impede the progress of the porters. The students successfully pulled it off!! They put forth a tremendous effort, especially given that some were exhausted and still feeling the effects of the previous day’s hike. Yet, no one complained and they performed the task with great efficiency and enthusiasm. I was so pleased to have collected these data and it demonstrates that science is not only an intellectual challenge, but can be a physical one as well!

After packing away the stools and enjoying a warm breakfast we headed toward the ruins of Huchuy Qosqo, which lies above the 3000 meter high town of Lamay, our final destination of the hike. We could see some marvelous views of the Sacred Valley. Roger gave us a brief history lesson of the Incas and asked us if we knew what was the factor that ultimately led to their demise. While most people assume it was the steel, cannons and horses, the “germs” is the more likely candidate. After he was finished, Roger allowed us to explore the ruins on our own. I chose to take a nap under the hot sun. When I awoke I realized Jonny had done the same thing. From here we headed down a steep set up switchbacks (Think San Francisco’s crooked street on steroids) toward Lamay. This was a very technical descent that took us roughly 2.5 hours. We could see camp down below. We finally arrived at around 2pm. The Porters were waiting for us, applauding our efforts. After enjoying another exceptional feast that included chicken ceviche(!!!!!), it was time to board a bus and head for Ollantaytambo. We thanked the porters for taking good care of us throughout our trek. We will never forget them. In Ollantaytambo we boarded a train that took us on a 1 hour 45 minute ride through the scenic Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes, the town which serves as the principal access point to Machu Pichu. We arrived, checked into our hotel and headed out for dinner. I had some alpaca (better this time) and my favorite dish, stuffed avocado (I think this was my 4th time enjoying this dish!). After dinner, we picked up some essentials (by essentials I mean water!) and headed back to our hotel. The students repeated the step test (this time at roughly 2000 meters) and then proceeded to their rooms for some much needed rest. Our accommodations at the Waman Hotel were exceptional! The best feature – a hot shower!

6-11-2014 from Prof D.


I did not get much sleep. I was tossing and turning all night, worried about the trek. Plus, my room was located next to the entrance of the hostel and I could hear everything!!! I was nervous that the students would be exhausted and in poor spirits. Much to my surprise they were alert and ready to go. Roger and Wilbur greeted us at the Hostel. Their company is Llama Path, which specializes in leading groups through the mountains. They were experts, native to Cusco. They both studied tourism at a local institute and had over 10 years of experience between them. The bus arrived at Tambomachay (3700 meters) at around 7:30. Shortly thereafter, a large red bus with the Llama path insignia pulled up. Out came 18 porters dressed in red uniforms. These men were also natives to the highlands and were responsible for hauling our gear and supplies up the mountain and to ultimately set up camp. They ranged in age from 19 to about 45, all super athletes! After some brief introductions the group set off for a long day in the mountains.

The trek was gorgeous, the hiking moderate to difficult! It was overcast and the temperature cool. Very comfortable! Views were spectacular. Words can’t describe the beauty so hopefully the students will add some pics. Eventually, the group spread out across the trail and people were moving at a different pace. Most of us chewing on cocoa leaves and inhaling some “condor pee” (yes, you read that correctly) to avoid altitude sickness. For some of us, these traditional preventive remedies worked (maybe?), for others, not so much. It was not until the end of the day that I was able to assess how everyone was feeling. At 1:30 we all arrived at the predetermined lunch spot at about 4100 meters. The porters were waiting for us. They had set up a tent and they began serving a two course meal. The meals for the trip far exceeded expectations. They were traditional gourmet Peruvian dishes that included, my favorite . . . palta a la reyna (stuffed avocado)! Awesome!

After lunch we still had to climb. It took us about 2 hours to make it to Huchuy Quosqo pass, our highest point at 4300 meters. This was a great moment. Despite being exhausted everyone managed a smile and recognized what an accomplishment this was. After a brief respite to enjoy the view we made our final descent down the mountain to Paucarcancha. Joining us was a herd of alpaca being led by a Quechuan woman.

The last of our group arrived at camp at around 6. Tents were set up, warm towels were provided and Roger informed us that “happy hour” was at 6:30. Many of us were suffering from intense headaches, some were nauseous and a few, downright sick! This was a moment that everyone had to dig deep. Happy hour consisted of popcorn, hot chocolate, cocoa tea, crackers with butter and jelly and soup. This was followed by the main course. The pizza with pineapple was especially tasty. I felt bad for the students who didn’t have the desire to eat anything. Some went to bed early.

As dinner was winding down we realized that one of the experiments we were planning to conduct was not going to work, so we had to switch gears. I had discussed with the students earlier that it might be pretty cool to test the lung capacity of some of the porters. Typically, these values are very high in native highlanders, which explain, in part, why these people thrive at high altitudes. I asked Roger if he could help recruit some of the younger porters to blow into the spirometer, that was kindly donated to us by the company ndd.medical. He said no problem. By the end of the evening we had collected data on 6 porters!! The whole process was a great bonding experience and fun!! Everyone was cheering and laughing, the porters were playfully teasing one another. Awesome! Check out this student video of the porters’ experience with the spirometer:

I went to bed feeling like we had done some good, although I was still worried about those students who were not able to enjoy that unforgettable moment on the mountain. I was hoping that the coca tea and a good night’s rest would provide some relief. One thing that we had in our favor- early bed time, 9:00pm!

6-11-2014 from Prof D.

A very busy day on Tuesday, students and I are tired but positive. We are about to leave for our trek: the moment we have all been waiting for. Hope to talk to you in two days!

6-10-2014 from Prof D.

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep!!!
That was the sound that we all dreaded to hear- the 3am wake up call. Johnny had packed us breakfast and we boarded a bus that took us to the airport. Our flight was at 6:30 and we needed to meet our transportation in Cusco by 9:30. The time in the airport was spent discussing the fifth journal club, “exercise training at high altitude”. The question of whether altitude training actually improves athletic performance is much more complicated than the students had expected. They can fill you in on the details. En route to Cusco we could see the Andean peaks outside the window. Spectacular view! When we landed, the sun was shining bright (and hot!) even at this early hour. This is the first time we saw the sun since leaving Baltimore. The group was greeted by Darwin (like Charles Darwin- that’s how he introduced himself) and Edwin, our guide for the day. They first took us to the Milhouse Hostel so we could freshen up before heading out for the day. It features free wi-fi, upstairs patio bar overlooking the rooftops of Cusco, where breakfast is served on a daily basis and nightly entertainment (This proved problematic later in the evening when everyone was trying to get a good night’s rest).

Once everyone was ready we boarded the bus and headed to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We headed “up” some curvy, bumpy roads. Everyone marveled at views of Cusco below, meanwhile I was trying to keep down my breakfast. After a brief stop at a market to pick up some souvenirs we arrived at the Pisac ruins, in the Sacred Valley. Edwin gave us a nice tour of the site and explained some of the history. The ruins feature agricultural terraces which enable production of food at high altitudes. He also introduced us to Peruvian mint- ahhhhhhh refreshing! Unfortunately, after some walking and picture taking we had to board that dreaded bus. It was getting late, well past lunch. We were all tired and hungry. We stopped in the town of Urubamba for a buffet style lunch. All the usual goodies were there, including the highly anticipated guinea pig. However, few of us, including myself, didn’t have the stomach to try it (an ominous sign!).

I think by the end of our lunch (which was actually an early dinner) we looked forward to heading back to the hostel for some much needed rest. We had been up since 3 am. Most of us forgot that Edwin was planning to take us to another ruin in Ollantaytambo. This required about a 30 min ride on that bus. It was getting late and Jonny and I decided to cut the tour short. Ollantaytambo served as the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti, who conquered the region. It is known for its several storehouses made out of fieldstones that defended their contents against decay. Both sites were marvelous but we needed to hustle back to Cusco in order to meet up with our guides for the hike, Roger and Wilbur, and to eat dinner. It took about an hour. Dinner was a bit hectic, fast paced and it was hard to hear Roger and Wilbur give their instructions. We rushed through dinner, a big disappointment since I was enjoying the food so much. I did manage to eat some Alpaca on spaghetti. Thought it was a bit overcooked, but good flavor nonetheless. It was late when we got back to the hostel. I think everyone was a bit nervous and it appeared that morale was down. We needed to pack our things for the trek. This included all the devices we would be using to collect data on the trail. Tomorrow was a big day. 5:30 wake up call.

6-9-2014 from Prof D.

Today was hospital day. We boarded a bus and headed for Hospital Nacional “ Hipolito Unanue”, a public hospital located in El Agustino which is east of Lima. We were greeted by Dr. “Dino” Cabrero and Dr. Ricardo Sanchez. We spent the morning touring the hospital and asking lots of questions. They talked extensively about what was the leading cause of morbidity and mortality- respiratory disease; at least in the poor areas where people cook and heat their homes with open fires. They did mention that obesity rates are on the rise and along with it, cardiovascular disease. The students were interested in whether physical therapy was an important discipline and they responded with a resounding “yes”. Many suffer from degenerative illnesses and trauma. After the tour, they led us to a newer wing of the hospital, dedicated to treating patients with TB. We sat in a small lecture hall and Dino gave a comprehensive talk that covered 5 main areas; 1) the condition of health in Peru, 2) high altitude illness (especially relevant for our group), 3) nutrition across the various regions of Peru, 4) the Peruvian Health system (both public and private) and 5) how medical training works (also interesting since we have some aspiring health care workers in the group). Regarding the 4th point, I’m glad the students were able to see and hear an expert talk about how publically funded health care delivery system actually works. Interestingly, Dino informed us that a few days prior to our arrival, Peruvian physicians working in the public sector had just ended a 3 weeks long strike over low pay and lack of resources. So thankfully, we managed to miss a time when it wasn’t working at all. Dino did a wonderful job. Another highlight of the trip!!

With much gratitude, we thanked are hosts and headed back to home base. I noticed a PR person taking pictures of us, so keep a look out for our picture on the hospital website www.hnhu.gob.pe. I forgot to mention that on our way to the hospital the students delivered their research proposals to the rest of the group. They have some really cool projects planned! The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing. I postponed journal club till tomorrow morning to give students more time to collect their thoughts. At dinner Jonny asked the students about their experience so far. They seem to be enjoying it immensely. We have reached the halfway point. Tomorrow we shift gears and head to Cusco. Early wake-up call so I will say so long for now. Oh, dinner tonight was PHD “pizza hut delivery”.

6-8-2014 from Prof D.

Last night I overheard Jonny talking to the students about going for a run in the morning, so naturally I inquired about the details. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the city, and the ocean, at an hour when most people were still in bed. Four of us left the hostel at around 6:45. He took us through a beautiful neighborhood in Miraflores on the way to the coast. If Barranco was like New Orleans, this section of the city reminded me of parts of San Francisco and Milwaukee (if you can believe that!). The run was peaceful and quite, the ocean majestic! On our way back I noticed a catholic church with its doors open, ready to welcome parishioners. Peru is over 90% catholic. Had I been thinking ahead, I would have facilitated a trip to church. I was surprised to hear later that many of the students (including some who are not catholic) would have been interested in attending a mass.

Jonny had chartered two vans to take us to meet Pim van den Hoven, a Dutchman who has spent the last three years selling organic foods and promoting “alternative medicine” in Peru. He gave the students a powerpoint presentation on these topics. Pim has no medical training and I’ll have to admit that I was a bit of a skeptic, but he made several points that I agree with; namely, sugar is our enemy, not FAT! This was great to hear and challenges the current medical dogma (although this is starting to change). Of course, he made several other points that caused me to raise a few red flags. In all, this was a very important activity for the students to be involved in since it forced them to think critically. They were attentive, engaged and asked good questions. And Pim was a gracious host. He offered us smoothies (the “healthy” kind) and samples (I enjoyed the coconut and goose berries- fresh not dried).

After he met with us he hopped into one of our vans and accompanied us to Mercado Bioferia (organic market). It is probably what you might expect- local vendors selling produce and other items. We were introduced to dragon fruit (tastes a bit like kiwi), picae (looks like big green beans with cotton candy in the middle- tastes a bit like cotton candy too). I bought some cherimoya to share with the group at breakfast the next morning (very sweet- I didn’t care for it- neither did anyone else).

We thanked Pim and headed back to the hostel. Before dinner we discussed journal club number 4- Differences in physiological adaptations to altitude between Tibetans and Andeans. I’ll just say there are differences. Again, you can follow up with the students regarding this. We walked back to Kennedy Park for a quick bit to eat. Jamon de serrano (Peruvian ham sandwich) for me! The group then took taxis to Parque de la Reserva, the world’s largest fountain complex in a public park. It was impressive and definitely one of the major highlights of the trip so far. We all thanked Jonny for recommending it. Hopefully, some students will be posting pictures of this park and the rest of the trip’s highlights on this blog soon. All for now.

6-7-2014 from Prof D.

Late in the evening

I noticed that Nathano’s did not display their menu on the website, so I’m posting some of the dishes here; Lomo Saltado, Ensalada Mixta, Chaufa con pollo (essentially Chinese fried rice; yes, Lima has a Chinatown) and Pollo al oregano. These were the main dishes- all exceptional! Palta a la Jardinera (avocado with veggies sprinkled on top!) was one of the appetizers-delectable. Peru is known for its avocados.

After breakfast we boarded the bus and headed to the Pachacamac ruins, which is located about 20 miles southeast of Lima. On our way there we could observe the many shantytowns, lining the highway. When we arrived at Pachacamac, Rosa reminded us that while most people may associate this archeological site with the Incas, they actually inherited it. It served as a religious site for the veneration of Pacha Kamaqu “earth creator”. The tour included stops at the “Temple of the Sun” and the “Temple of the Moon”. Interestingly, one can determine which culture built these structures by the way the bricks are laid (either vertical or horizontal). The walk to the top of the Temple of the Sun included a minimally steep climb. I am being generous, because compared to what we are about to face on Wednesday, we might as well have been rolling downhill. At the top, we could see the Pacific Ocean in all of its glory. The wind was steady and a bit chilly. Pachacamac is located in a desert area but directly below us were verdant fields where people (and horses!) were playing polo. At around 1pm we boarded the bus and headed back to Lima.

When we arrived it was time to say goodbye to Rosa. She was a wonderful guide and extremely informative. We were lucky to have her and sad to part ways. It was well past lunch so we were hungry. We headed to Kennedy Park (yes, you read that correctly), the home of painters and artisans. There were many places to eat in this area and Jonny chose another gem! I failed to get the name but the Papas a la Huancaina and Bistec a lo Pobre were exquisite! We walked through the park and among the cats (google it) on our way back to the hostel. At his point it was late in the afternoon. After about an hour I met with the students to discuss our 3rd journal club- functional adaptations to life at high altitude. This was an extension of the previous day’s topic, but the focus was on what happens to the body during longer stays at altitude. I think the students are starting to get the hang of it. If you have any questions about the O2 dissociation curve I’m sure they would be happy to answer them. Katie and Will also took this time to pitch their research proposal to the group. The other groups will give their proposals tomorrow.

At around 8:30 the groups took taxis to an area of Lima called Barranco. It reminds me a bit of New Orleans. The center was set up like Jackson Square. A band was playing music. After some time enjoying our surrounding we headed to the area where the restaurants were located. All of them were vying for our business by offering pisco sours on the house (by the end of the evening we had received one and a half- perhaps they thought we wouldn’t notice). We ended up choosing Toto’s. I ordered Porcion de tequenos con queso (somewhat of a light, flaky pastry with cheese) and chicharro de Cameron (fried shrimp with a distinct taste). I washed it down with a Pilsen allao (I’ll call it a Peruvian Pilsner). The food was muy excelente (starting to run out of adjectives) but took a while to come out. As a result, we had to hustle back to the main square to catch our cab. We all arrived at the hostel before midnight. Off to bed.

6-6-2014 from Prof D.

In Lima, Later in the evening

Wow, what a busy day! After eating breakfast at the hostel we met with Rosa, our guide, who led us on a bus tour through Lima. Among the high points was a brief stop at “Love Park”, which offered some majestic views of the Pacific Ocean, despite the overcast morning. The park was constructed after the mayor of Mira Flores was inspired by what he saw during a visit to Barcelona.  We toured through much of Mira Flores as well as the central part of the city, stopping at the Plaza Mayor, which is surrounded by Governmental Palace, the Cathedral of Lima and The Archbishop’s residence, the Municipal Palace, and the palace of the Union. This is the point where the federal government, the city government and the spiritual leadership intersect. It is quite popular and we noticed many other tourists along with several school groups. From here we walked to the Monastery of San Francisco. Everyone was captivated by the Baroque architecture, the hand crafted cedar ceilings, the Moorish-styled naves and the extensive catacombs. After boarding our bus we headed to lunch. Throughout the trip, Rosa was introducing (or perhaps reintroduced) us to the rich cast of characters that shaped Peruvian history and culture (eg., the Incas, Francisco Pizzaro, Simon Bolivar, San Martin and Admiral Miguel Grau). Lunch was everything I hoped it would be. We ate at Antigua Taberna Queirolo, an establishment that has been operated by an Italian family for three generations. It is quite popular among the locals and the food did not disappoint. Despite what you might think it did not serve pasta and red sauce, but rather traditional Peruvian cuisine. You can view the menu here http://antiguatabernaqueirolo.com/. For those of you who know me . . . can you guess what I ordered?  After lunch, it was on to the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History. Rosa gave us a wonderful tour, although many of us were quite exhausted at this point. Something that came as a surprise to many of us was how short a period of time the Inca Empire was in existence prior to Spanish conquest. Many cultures pre-existed the Incas, including the Wari people (500-1000 AD). We also learned about “head binding”. Look it up! Most of us slept on the way back to our hostel. Once we arrived we retreated to our rooms for some more rest and some of the students prepared for our 2nd journal club before heading off to dinner.
The topic of journal club was acute physiological adaptations to high altitude. Chief among them is an increase in ventilation, which is a response to the low partial pressure of oxygen. A consequence of this is a reduction in carbon dioxide. This in turn leads to changes in the acid-base balance of the blood and . . . well, I won’t bore you with the rest of the details. Please ask the students about this upon their return. At 7pm it was off to dinner at Nathano’s. We all shared a number of dishes, including the highly anticipated ceviche! Everything was delicious, including the “must try” pisco sour. I think I’ll have another! We arrived back at the hostel . Later in the evening I saw some students in the breakfast area working on their next assignment which reminded that this was indeed a “study” abroad. More work to do tomorrow.

6-6-2014 from Prof D.

In Lima

We landed in Lima last night at about 10:30 local time (we are one hour behind EST). The trip went smoothly except for one minor hiccup. One of the student’s bags was left in Miami. Ugh!! Hopefully, it will be delivered to us later this evening. Jonny greeted us with a warm smile, water and some snacks. After exchanging some money we hoped on a private bus and headed to La Casa Nostra Hostel in Miraflores. Despite the comfortable accommodations and long day I didn’t get much sleep. I haven’t queried the students yet, but I suspect most will agree. During our first “journal club” we talked about how sleep is altered at high altitude. Specifically, some people experience intermittent breathing which can lead to arousals and ultimately cause fatigue. This was not the case last night however, for Lima is located at sea level! Well, Jonny has an action packed day planned for us, with trips to the National Museum of Anthropology and a Lima city tour. We should arrive back at the hostel at around 3pm. Talk to you then.

6-5-2014 from Professor Devon Dobrosielski

. . . and so the adventure begins.

Greetings friends! The “Peru 2014: Life at the Top” program is officially off the ground, literally! I am writing this post from the comfortable (??), pressurized (!!!) confines of an American Airlines 737 jet, currently cruising at about 30,000 ft. Joining me on this flight are 14 eager Towson students participating in the study abroad program. Our final destination is Peru, where the students will gain first-hand knowledge of the basis of altitude stress and the challenges, responses and factors of exertion affected by high altitude. We are very excited about what lies ahead. Any expedition requires a great deal of planning. That said, the students have spent the last three days in the Towson Wellness Center, collecting “sea level” data on themselves. Everyone underwent a maximal graded exercise test, comprehensive body composition assessment with a DXA scanner, assessment of resting and hyperemic blood flow and resting metabolic rate. Using these data as well as the “tools” we are bringing with us (more details to follow) they have designed some interesting experiments. I look forward to sharing them with you later. We are about to land in Miami. That’s all for now.

In Miami

With the first leg of our journey complete we set our sights on Lima, where we will spend 4 days before heading up to higher altitude. Jonny, our “asset” on the ground, is set to meet us in the airport. Jonny is from Connecticut, but has spent years in South America and is fluent in Spanish. We have had great conversations with him on the phone and the group looks forward to meeting him in person. It’s time to board our flight to Lima, 5 hours. Next time I post we will be in Lima!

Keep checking back for updates from Professor Devon Dobrosielski and his intrepid students live blogging from Peru!

For more information on the program, click here.

Peru Study Abroad

Photo courtesy of William Saffell

“Peru: Life at the Top” through photos

Now that our students are back from their Faculty-Led program in Peru, the pictures are flooding in! These stunning photos are courtesy of Kelley Johnson, Jacob Millford, Jacqueline Mockler, and Tiaira Bates and highlight the groups’ experience in Lima, Cuzco, Machu Picchu and more. Check it out!

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Live Blogging: Summer 2014 in Peru

Dr. Devon Dobrosielski, from the Department of Kinesiology, and 14 students are heading to Peru for the next 10 days on a faculty-led study abroad trip.

Lucky for you all (and for us!) they have taken to live blogging their experience! Follow along as they visit Macchu Picchu (one of the new 7 wonders of the world), archaeological sites, a Medical School, and visit ancient ruins.

Click here for a look at the latest posts!