Akua Achampong (2016)

Name: Akua Achampong
Field of Study: Civil & Environmental Engineering
Expected Graduation: 2017
Summer Program: Princeton IIP with UBelong Peru
Program Location: Cusco, Peru

Relevance of the Program:

Akua is a student in Princeton University’s Class of 2017 from Detroit, Michigan. She is majoring in Civil & Environmental Engineering and is pursuing certificates in Urban Studies & Spanish Language & Culture. This summer will be her first experience travelling without her family and her first time outside of North America and Ghana. After this summer in Cusco, Peru, she hopes to continue travelling and learning about cities, specifically those in the Global South. After graduation, Akua wants to pursue a career in urban planning & development.

Recap of Akua’s Experience:

Thanks to the BAE Scholarship Fund, this summer, I had the opportunity to spend 8 weeks in Cusco, Peru to complete an internship. I worked for a non-profit organization called Huchuy Yachaq, aimed at servicing children and giving them a space to wander and play so that they would not be on the streets. The program was aimed at serving the entire family; so many of the components were geared toward fostering a stronger community where all children could thrive. Through providing informational services and afterschool program, Huchuy Yachaq is able to empower kids through continued contact and engagement with them.

My responsibilities for them included tutoring and interacting with the children and other people at the organizations so I could learn about it. Moreover, my interactions with these individuals were beneficial so that I could post relevant content to the social media page in order to find funding for the organizations. The experience was definitely challenging— I’ve never attempted to serve anyone that I did not completely understand so it was hard to gauge whether I was doing it well or not. However, this experience was also rewarding for me because I was able to immerse myself in a different culture and understand the problems impacting them. Though I definitely didn’t do it perfectly, it was definitely overall something I am immensely grateful that I had the opportunity to do because I learned so much in so many different ways.

When I wasn’t working with organization, I explored the local area around Cusco. Cusco and its surrounding areas are home to various important historical sites. I was able to take tours of them and learned that Cusco was once the center of the ancient Incan civilization. In the area, there were several different amazing sites of ruins that were crucial to the development and survival of Incan civilization. In these ruins, there were great religious sites of worships, agricultural testing centers and military bases. One of these places that was the fascinating for me was the Temple Qoricancha, which was a sun temple turned Catholic Church during the Spanish Conquest. An earthquake in the 1950s revealed that the Church had been built over an Incan temple. Archaeologists partially restored the Incan temple to its original condition but learning about this juxtaposition of cultures sparked my interest in urban studies. Seeing this combination of both Catholic Church and Incan temple in one site showed me how different cultures can interact within a city and how though one culture may be under the rule of another, it can resist and still remain prominent against all odds.

In addition to this internship work and local explorations of the areas surrounding Cusco, I was able to adventure to various exciting destinations throughout Peru during the weekends. The first weekend, I travelled to Lake Titcaca, which is the highest navigable lake in the world. I spent the weekend exploring the floating islands that several native Peruvians call home and spent a night with a native Peruvian family, learning more and immersing myself in the more traditional part of the culture.

A few weekends later, I was able to travel to Paracas and Huacacina. Paracas is the site of a national reserve that has an amazing combination of views of the Pacific Ocean and tropical desert. There were also flamingos in the area! In addition to this, Paracas is near the Islas Ballestas, which is also referred to as the “Poor Man’s Galapagos,” and it was filled with several different types of animals including sea lions and penguins. It was very exciting to see all of these different animals outside of a zoo environment. Finally, Huacacina is the sight of a desert oasis so during my time there I was able to take a sand buggy tour and go sand boarding in the dunes! These weekend trips were definitely filled with fun and excitement, as I was able to see things that I had never expected would be possible for me.

All of these invaluable experiences & learning opportunities would not have been possible without the generosity of the BAE Scholarship! I am extremely grateful for their kindness and support of my endeavors.