GETTING TO KNOW AROUND THE WORLD GAP
Your Around the World Gap experience will take you around the world, taking you to dramatic landscapes, engaging cultures, and meaningful volunteer work. In each location, you'll feel welcomed as a member of the local community from the moment you arrive.
Learn About Peru
Peru has one of the most interesting histories of any South American country. Ancient Peru was the seat of several prominent Andean civilizations, most notably that the Incas, whose empire was captured by Spanish conquistadors in 1533. They have left behind the impressive ruins of Machu Picchu for modern-day travelers to Peru to enjoy!
Although a Spanish-speaking country as a result of colonization, you still might hear aboriginal languages, such as Quechua and Aymara, at your volunteer assignment. When it comes to ethnic diversity, Peru is a melting pot of Amerindians, Europeans, Africans, and Asians. This assortment of influences can be seen in paintings, tasted in the abundant variety of Peruvian cuisine, and heard in music. Peru gained independence in 1821 from the Spanish, and in 1980, returned to being a democratic society.
The capital city of Lima is an intriguing mix of modern and traditional, ancient and evolving. With just over 7.6 million citizens, Lima is Peru’s largest city, and it has something for just about everyone. You may be visiting a local artisan market one day, and a bustling modern shopping mall the next. As Lima is often called the “culinary capital of South America,” you can have a meal of haute cuisine by a world-renowned chef, or snack at ceviche stands around your neighborhood. On your weekend, you may find yourself indulging in nightlife that can rival that of any big city worldwide, and then touring ancient ruins at the Pachacamac archaeological site the very next day. Lima is a land of contrasts and contradictions, and just when you think you’ve gotten it pinned down, it will morph into something else entirely.
Learn About India
Like many countries, India was once an English colony. However, once it gained its independence in 1947, India stabilized and has remained a democratic country since Mohandas Gandhi first advocated for its independence. Learn more about the incredible history of India, including its independence movement.
While Hindi is the primary language for 41% of the people, there are 14 other official languages (including English, the language of business). Our staff will help you learn Hindi while on the program, but why not try your hand at one of the 14 other languages? It will help you connect even more to the program and the people.
As you explore Delhi, you’ll quickly notice that the city (as well as India as a whole) is filled with amazing sites! From the crazy traffic to the myriad of foods and spices, Delhi is where it’s happening! Have a visit to one of the many temples in Delhi or plan your trip around a multitude of festivals, including the Festival of Colors, also known as Holi! When you arrive, you will be inspired by the beauty and the life that is India!
Learn About Ghana
Like the majority of the African continent, Ghana was formally colonized. The “Gold Coast” (named by the British) originally attracted the Portuguese to the area. The Trans-Atlantic trade route became a popular export route for gold, but also for slaves -- Cape Coast was one of the largest ports for the slave trade in West Africa. After centuries of oppression, Ghana became one of the first countries in the African continent to gain their independence, and has been one of the most politically stable countries in the region ever since. If you’re a history buff, learn even more about Ghana’s rich history.
Today, Ghana’s economy is one of the fastest-growing in Africa. They are one of the largest exporters of gold and cocoa (hot chocolate anyone?), and this economic independence has enabled a focus on access to education and meeting the basic needs of the population. One of the most recent social issues that has been at the forefront of Ghana’s politics is child labor – children are being taken out of school at an early age to help with the family farm or business. The government recognizes that is preventing the advancement of early education, and has started to put measures in place to prevent the frequency of child labor.
Ghana is abuzz with celebrations and festivities throughout the year, but one that you can count on every weekend is a wedding or a funeral. Funerals in Ghana are treated as a true celebration of life and the perfect reason to get together with friends and family. Everyone dresses to impress and many times, professional mourners are hired! The funeral business is quite lucrative throughout the country, as many people will save up their entire lives specifically for their funeral celebration. Coffin-makers line the streets of the markets and create true pieces of art for friends and family to choose from. Don’t be surprised if you get invited to one or two while you are in Ghana – it’s an honor!
Cultural Do’s and Don’ts
Entering a new culture is an exciting and challenging experience. And just as you bring your own culture to share, it’s important to be open and respectful to the culture of those you’ll meet during your travels. You’ll often find that you have a much more positive experience if you are aware of and take into account cultural norms when meeting new people and getting to know your new community.
Picture this: You’re living in a country far from home. You can’t understand the language, and you’re trying to order food, but everything seems to be moving so slowly! Why can’t it just be like in your home country: fast and efficient?
Sometimes, these and other frustrations can build up, and you may even become angry or annoyed at with this new and unfamiliar place, its cultural norms, and its people. If this happens to you, you might be experiencing culture shock.
Culture shock can be a normal part of traveling to a new country, but it might surprise you that you can also encounter reverse culture shock when you return home. While everyone experiences some degree of culture shock, the impact that it has on your experience depends on how well prepared you are to handle its different phases. Here are some tips and tricks to get you assimilated (and re-assimilated once you’re back home) so you can enjoy every moment of your journey.
- Have a sense humor.
Try to see something of value in every new experience you have. While it can be challenging in the moment, try to keep it all in perspective. The ability to laugh and go with the flow are two key tools to coping with initial culture shock.
- Expect differences.
In any new culture, there will be some differences. If you’re prepared for there to be challenges and differences before you arrive in-country, it can make a world of difference in how you adjust.
- ...but look for what’s the same.
You will likely encounter differences in cultures, but you might not immediately realize the similarities. Take a moment to appreciate those attributes that make us more alike than different.
- Keep learning.
Immersing yourself in a new culture is a constant education. So continue making an effort to learn and understand what you’re experiencing.
Living and working within your new community is a great way to learn the local language. Whether you’re an advanced speaker or just learning a few key phrases, you’ll enjoy CCS-organized language lessons during your time in-country to help you through your journey. Here are a few important phrases to learn before you depart for your volunteer program. Even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect (yet), give it a try! Your attempts to connect with new friends in the local language will always be appreciated.
Spanish in Peru
Click below to hear Country Director Enrique Bossio begin your first Spanish language lesson.
Ready for the next level? Practice your Spanish with these online sites:
Hindi in India
Click below to hear Country Director Bela Singh begin your first Hindi language lesson.
Ready for the next level? Practice your Hindi with this online site:
Ewe in Ghana
As with learning any new language, reading phrases is helpful. But listening is one of the best ways to grasp sounds and vocabulary. Click below to hear Country Director Makafui Amenuvor begin your first Ewe language lesson.
Ready for the next level? Practice your Ewe with these online sites:
Recommended Reading and Films
We believe that travel and firsthand encounters are the BEST education. But there are also plenty of resources to help you learn more about the history, travel opportunities, culture, stories, and language of Peru so you can begin to immerse yourself even before you arrive. Here are just a few of our favorites to get you started:
Article: Trends in Ghana »
CCS Blog: Peru »
YouTube: New Delhi, India »
Between volunteering, cultural activities, navigating a new language, and immersing yourself in a brand-new culture, you’ll still have plenty of time to explore the local area and even the country during evenings and weekends. Free time is an important part of your experience for independent exploration and self-reflection, and our in-country staff will always have some great, local tips to share.
Start your planning with a few of our favorite suggestions, but also remember that you can plan most of your trips once you arrive in-country (especially if flights aren’t required) with your fellow volunteers.