What’s the international charm of Lima?


The reasons for why many internationals decide to live in Peru are abundant and quite varied.

However, what can be more intriguing are the stories of those who have studied and interned here as students only to decide to return to the Land of the Incas soon after.

What is it about Lima and Peru that draws expats around the world to settle here and call it their home?

What can be seen as the international charm?

I dug a little deeper into the lives of three International Studies Abroad alumni to find out their perspectives, which encompass the perspectives of just a select few.

For Tennessee-native Drew Peterson, his first taste of Peru was from back in 2008 when he traveled the country with his family to experience the “typical tourist” sites of the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu and more.

After this initial taste of the country, Peterson chose to come back to Peru due to several reasons. At the time, he was pursuing a social work major and minor in Spanish, with interests in youth development and refugee/immigrant services.

So, when ISA offered him the opportunity to partake in a custom program working with Mundo Libre, a rehabilitation center for street children addicted to drugs, Peterson didn’t hesitate to take it.

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Afterward, Peterson graduated from college after returning to the States and began working as a licensed social worker; the vast majority of his clients came from Spanish-speaking countries such as Puerto Rico and Mexico.

But Peterson tired of his job after a couple years, and the “itch” came to leave the country again.

As he told me during our interview, and as I could tell by his seemingly ever-curious personality, being stagnant wasn’t an option for him; he felt the need to challenge himself.

So, Peterson packed up his bags for the third time to move to Peru, this time however with intentions to teach English as a second language in preparation for his Master’s.

“It’s always best to choose your educational path based on experience instead of interest,” Peterson told me.

Crossing the other side of the United States, there lived a native Californian who attended school in New York City. Having the influence of her Peruvian babysitter encouraged her to pick the Spanish-speaking country for her Modern Languages and cultures major.

So, Amy Geraghty spent the second semester of her junior year of college as an _estudiante de intercambio_.

It didn’t take long after her return to the States to decide she wanted to return.

“I finished my study abroad semester and returned back to the U.S.,” Geraghty said. “It took about two weeks for me to realize how much I missed the country and how much I wanted to go back. I immediately arranged plans with my school to finish my last year abroad and bought a ticket to come back.”

After “one or two bad gringo call-center jobs” post-graduation, Geraghty was offered a full-time job at a prestigious international school, which helped her with her visa.

Five years later, Geraghty opened her current business Grad School Guru, which helps students with graduate school preparations to the States.

And representing the heart of the United States is the ambitious Illinois-native who goes by the name of Brooklyn McMahon.

Similar to Geraghty, McMahon also did a _ciclo de intercambio_ during her junior year.

She chose Peru due to its indigenous culture mixed with Spanish heritage after being talked out of going to Argentina by a friend. The selection fulfilled requisites for her Latin American studies minor.

It was during this semester abroad that she fancied the idea of returning after graduation, but she wasn’t set in stone over the idea until she returned to the States and was ready to graduate.

A myriad of factors drove her decision to return to Peru, from her belief that her “Spanish wasn’t good enough for having a degree in it” to the fact that her current boyfriend and ISA connections and friends were still in the country.

After researching different options and a successful interview with a private, bilingual school of her choice, McMahon was able to return as of the beginning of this year and hasn’t looked back.

Among all the ISA alumni, patience seemed to be a common theme on what they’ve learned so far since being here.

As Peterson stated, “It has nothing to do with inability. There’s just no reason to stress here. It’ll happen when it happens.”

I asked them what they missed most from the States and was answered with “craft beer, whiskey and good pizza.” They’d also like it if “Amazon delivered more things to Peru.”

But one thing was for certain, they were impressed with the diversity that Lima has to offer.

“I love the fact that I can be in Barranco and be in this pseudo old city that has great music and food,” Peterson said. “If I want somewhere like New York City, I go to Miraflores…You can get lots of different experiences here in Lima all in one city, all in one day.”

Another reason cited for the interest in the city was due to the country’s “booming culinary environment,” as was told by Geraghty.

And overall, for those who may be thinking of studying, traveling or living abroad in a Spanish-speaking country, Peterson had one last bit of advice.

“In regards to traveling abroad in general, I do think you have to have love for languages and for challenging yourself… [It will make your life] ten times better that you learn Spanish and learn to live like a [native].”_Living in Peru_ interviews three alumni of study abroad programs to share their stories about how they first found Lima and what brought them back.