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When studying abroad, immerse yourself

The way we have approached international education since the advent of online resources has been quite formulaic, an issue tackled by Jeremi Suri in his most recent column. Our “distant classrooms,” Suri says, have fostered a culture of easy access and entertainment. When we study abroad, we do exactly that — we study abroad and we party abroad. This is the disadvantage of the comforts of our access. It is also one of being American. When we travel abroad, it is very likely that we will encounter the same clothing, music and language as we do at home. We come home with a maturity developed from keeping track of our own passports and navigating a new city, an underwhelming feat.

When I interned abroad in Peru, it amazed me that both Chan Chan, ancient ruins that are a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a McDonald’s were equidistant from my host home. It was easy to avoid speaking Spanish as long as I stayed with the other interns, but that got boring after a while. Eventually, I started talking to the people sitting next to me on the bus to work every day. I met souvenir vendors, lawyers, journalists, teachers and traveling artists who performed to pay their way across the country. Each person taught me something different; each gave me a piece of the city I was living in. I stayed on my bus a little longer than I was supposed to. I explored the city – even the places that weren’t listed on TripAdvisor.   

One of the best ways to feel closer to the city is to learn the language. Had I not spoken Spanish, it would have been much more difficult to learn about the people and things around me. Speaking to someone in their own language is also a bonding experience. The more Spanish I learned, the more included I felt in conversations with my Peruvian friends.

The best advice I got before I left for Peru was this: Don’t let your experience be a passive one. Engage in a new mindset. The most important asset to your experience will be the people you connect with. The more you understand the people around you, the more you’ll understand a life outside of your own. Ask questions, be engaged, stay off your phone and just don’t buy a data plan for your semester abroad.

Shah is a business and government sophomore from Temple.

Archaeologist Steve Bourget presented findings on campus Saturday from his work in northern Peru and said different civilizations can be connected based on the designs found in medallions and ceramics.

Bourget said he and his team spent a lot of their time at Huaca el Pueblo, where they found a lot of similarities in artifacts to those of the old lord of Sipan, which were uncovered at another site.

“We were blessed enough to find the tomb of a high-ranking individual and we excavated this in 2008,” Bourget said. “The tomb was extremely rich. It took us four years of restoration to restore everything in the tomb.”

Inside the tomb, Bourget said his team found a collection of 11 diadems and 10 crowns, along with ceramic beads and other pottery. According to Bourget, the two individuals in the tombs could have known each other, but there is no evidence of that. Bourget said these two would have lived during the same generation, which could possibly be why they had similar styles.

During this time in Peru, Bourget said he found more information and ties between Huaca el Pueblo and another site, Dos Cabezas. Bourget said the sites provided insight to the calendar systems used by the people.

“During earlier time … they built their calendar right in front of the Huaca and then during the middle when things change — there was a new political administration at Dos Cabezas — this guy decided to build a bigger temple 600 meters from the site and there make a very impressive calendar.”

Bourget said the civilization could have operated under a lunisolar calendar, marking the date by both the phase of the moon and the solstices.

Ellie Brady, a local who attended Bourget’s lecture, said she was interested in how many calendars each civilization had and how they spread the information about the calendars to others.

“All the math that’s involved with archaeology was really cool … and the digging that you have to do,” Brady said.

Maline Werness-Rude, UT alum and a former student of Bourget’s, attended the lecture and said she really enjoyed hearing about the alignments between the different sites.

“I think that he’s fairly convincing so far on the setup of the calendar structure … then also showing the exact parallels between the alignments I thought was really demonstrative of parallels in social structure,” Werness-Rude said. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Case McCoy has always been in the background. 

He grew up as the little brother of former Texas star Colt McCoy and has spent most of his Longhorns career as the backup quarterback. For Case, however, the chip on his shoulder has not been in the background—a chip that has helped define McCoy during his time as a Longhorn so far.

“It’s there,” co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. “You know the little brother syndrome or the back-up quarterback syndrome. Whatever you want to call it. He certainly has a chip on his shoulder. And it doesn’t come out in just feistiness or words, it comes out in his preparation and his dedication to his teammates.”

When he was five years old, doctors caught a skin and muscular disease named scleroderma, which is a build-up of scar-like tissue in the skin. The senior said that chip he has on his shoulder started when he got that diagnosis.

“That was a disadvantage I was put at early,” McCoy said. “But at the same time, I don’t think I’d be here if it weren’t for it. It made me work harder, it made me want all of this more than I would have if I were a normal healthy child.”

Scleroderma isn’t the only outside factor affecting how McCoy looked at his life. This past summer, the quarterback spent 10 weeks in Peru on a mission trip.

McCoy helped purify water and installed water filtration systems while in South America. He spent time with underprivileged families and came to the realization on how lucky he was to be in the position he was.

“I took away a lot, about how blessed I am along with all of everyone living in this country,” McCoy said. “I realized how much people not only in Peru but in America would trade for my position anytime.”

While it can be hard to see at first sight, the mission trip had an impact on his football career.

“I realized how much of a passion I have for this game,” McCoy said. “Being separated from it for 10 weeks, its something that I haven’t done since I was in junior high. I’ve been around this game my whole life. I realized how much passion I have and how much love I have for my teammates.”

When you play at a school Texas, it can be easy as a player to become overconfident, a feature some say McCoy exhibits too often.

“Around here you can love yourself pretty quick,” Applewhite said. “I’ve been a part of that, done it myself as a player, and you just have to fight it every day and focus on your team”

Nonetheless, McCoy has found that focus once again. With six games left to create his legacy at Texas, the senior has used his off-field activities as an advantage instead of a crutch.

“There was a time in there I was going through the motions and not relishing in the moment that I was living in,” McCoy said. “Once I realized that and realized I had one more year to do what I loved and continue to try and achieve this dream I’ve had for so long, that’s the biggest impact from it all. I was ready to get back as soon as that hit me.”