Editor’s Note: Eccles Ambassador Jeffrey Letsinger traveled to Peru with his fellow students over Fall Break. Here, he details what he learned during his travels and how it changed his perspective on the world.

Fall Break was an unforgettable experience filled with international travel for a group of Jeff Letsinger headshotyoung professionals at the David Eccles School of Business. The Eccles Ambassadors journeyed to Peru in collaboration with Walmart to get a better understanding of the international produce-sourcing process.

Along the way, they were able to take a hike around Machu Picchu and tour the crowded streets of Lima and Cusco. It was, at times, a bit of a struggle as about half of the group caught an illness at some point or another. Nonetheless, the expedition was quite incredible and the country of Peru offered some amazing contrasts between U.S. life and that of South America.

Many of the students on the trip, including myself, had never ventured south of the equator. This was a brand-new scene for American college students, who, for the most part, are much more privileged than many citizens of Peru. Numerous lessons were learned, and even though only one week was spent in Peru, our Eccles Experience will be remembered for a lifetime.

I have now been to four continents by the age of 20, and I’m beginning to understand the effect that international travel has on developing minds. Scientists argue that our brains stop developing in our 20s. I am hoping that my brain never stops learning and changing my outlook about life’s great mysteries. One of those mysteries I am just now discovering is that when we get out of our comfort zone and into places that test our mental and physical limits, we learn a lot about ourselves.

International travel often takes us out of our comfort zone. As I was on this trip with my classmates, I noticed that extreme poverty and the language barrier were the two biggest shockers. We were challenged to look back on our lives and understand how extremely blessed we are with our families, friends and education growing up in a developed, thriving economy. It was a little bit unsettling looking around and seeing thousands of stray dogs run throughout the streets while children no older than 7 were trying to make money so they could eat dinner that night. It made myself and several other students examine why we go to school and how important it is we take full advantage of our opportunities.

The language barrier wasn’t so much shocking as it was encouraging. Most of us don’t speak Spanish, and many of the people we communicated spoke no English. Communicating with body gestures and facial expressions to reach a common goal shows us that we are all the same people just raised differently. It is my belief that many stereotypes and prejudices can be eliminated at a young age if students are exposed to the unknown. International travel is an unknown in many cases, and people are forced to adapt to their surroundings in order to thrive. This process helps us gain an understanding about different cultures and ideas.

Bringing together the obstacles faced and moving images of poverty, beautiful landscape, and human connection helps to sculpt the mind, developing minds especially. International travel shouldn’t always be a vacation to the tropics or a history tour of Europe; rather it should be an experience that changes us for the better.

As airfare becomes more affordable and international tensions decline, schools and organizations should be making a better effort to send students overseas. Cultural exposure is going to be critical in the years to come regarding both diplomacy and human development.

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