10 Days. 5 continents. Day 9

Ever wondered what the greatest degree on Earth might look like? I have, and I’m on a mission to find out! Follow me on my journey as I meet some amazing people working for amazing brands, plus check out some great places to study. Day 9 took me to Peru in South America.

I have started drinking coffee again… after many years off the roasted beverage I have realised it is now very much my friend when coping with changing time zones, currencies, languages and climates.

We landed in Lima, Peru after a 12 hour flight from Madrid. I was literally running on empty… physically and technologically. My phone and laptop were dead and I was feeling very delirious.

We had a 2 hour car journey ahead of us in the direction of the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC) campus in Monterrico, Santiago de Surco. On arrival at the campus we met with our two wonderful tour guides for the day: Gloria Mora and Daniela Beltrán.

They took us to store our luggage in their office and then we hopped into a car en route to the other UPC campus Villa. On the way to Villa campus, Gloria and Daniela explained to us that Monterrico is their largest of 4 campuses with 17,000 students and 21 years of history. The Villa campus is much newer campus with a health and science focus and has around 5,000 students. In total UPC has around 38,000 students across 4 campuses in Lima.

The majority of the students at UPC are Peruvian, but a small amount of internationals come from countries such as Mexico and Spain and as far as Sweden. All students must study English to graduate, therefore we had no trouble communicating with the staff and students that we met.

Gloria and Daniela look after Campus Life and International student experience. They have a very cool job and explained to us a concept they have been running successfully for a number of years. Its called Cultural Friday. From 1-3pm every Friday the students have no classes scheduled. During this time the Campus Life team organise sports, workshops, movies, concerts, cooking classes, Latin dance classes, volunteer programs and other social activities. Students must participate in a number of these events each term in order to receive the cultural credits they require to graduate. All students are given a Cultural Passport in which they must collect points. On estimate, students must attend around 20 activities throughout their course. Most of them sound super fun and I think this is an awesome way to get students to interact and have a great social campus life.

We were met by César Pancorvo who looks after university services at Villa campus. Villa campus backs onto the huge mountain ranges of Lima where the shanty town is full of brightly painted colourful houses.

We explored the campus which had some very cool facilities. The campus had very lush green gardens and a large grassy knoll where students were lying or studying in the sun. César explained that the grassy area is where the campus holds concerts and outdoor movies during Cultural Fridays. We explored the large basketball courts, football field, gymnasium and swimming pool. UPC has its own swim squad, basketball team, football teams and other sporting clubs.

César took us to the health building where they had a medical room equipped with many models of body parts, fetuses, and muscle groups. They were very cool and we wanted to go in to play with the models, but the room was locked and could not be accessed.

I was invited to join in a practical nutrition class. One of the students leant me their lab coat and I joined the students mixing liquids in a beaker. We were making soap from what I could tell was some kind of fat, a clear liquid and oranges.

We had to get back to the other campus for some other appointments, so we headed back out to the road to find our driver. We said farewell to César who had been a wonderful tour guide.

While waiting for our driver we saw many Mototaxi’s. These are the little tuk-tuk type vehicles that take people to shanty town. Gloria and Daniela told us that they are pretty dangerous drivers and they don’t recommend we take a Mototaxi.

Back at the Montericco campus I noticed that students were lying in the grassy knoll here also. It looked so inviting!

We had lunch booked in the student training restaurant, K’ata. Here we briefly had the pleasure of meeting with Josilú Carbonel: International Office Director and Giannina Robinson: responsible for Hospitality and Management Faculty. I was invited into the kitchen where the students were cooking a cake. I donned an apron and hairnet and helped to mix the eggs into the mixer and discovered that we were making a chocolate cake.

We enjoyed a beautiful lunch in K’ata restaurant – spring rolls, chicken and fried rice followed by a custard apple chocolate cup. The students had done a great job and we were very impressed with the standard of cooking and service.

Next we had a meeting with Úrsula Freundt: Dean of Communications Faculty and Claudia Marín: Responsible for Communications Faculty. They were wonderful, when we explained our Greatest Degree on Earth project, they jumped into action and took us to meet with some classes. First we met with a multi media class. This class had first year students from journalism, marketing, and PR courses. They were all working on creating comic books. I joined a young student for a demonstration of the software they are working on to build the comic book.

Ursula then took us to meet a second year class where the students were creating a magazine. The standard was very high and I was really impressed with their work, it looked awesome.

Alejandra, a journalism teacher then showed us the student magazine that is created by students. Punto Seguido – student magazine includes interviews, reviews, travel stories, topical news etc. It is a very impressive publication and becomes a valuable piece for the students portfolio. Students must do their own market research, conduct interviews, take photos, write, edit, design, print & publish online. View it here: http://issuu.com/upcpuntoseguido

We then met with Fiorella Ginoccio: from Alumni Relations. She introduced us to two engineering graduates who we were going to interview. Daniel Rodriguez Cárhuaz and Willy Alejo Ramírez had graduated in June this year and since have been working full time in engineering roles. But on the side they have created a Biometric system based on vascular patterns. This means that they can scan a person’s hand which shows a unique pattern of veins which identifies a person. This is an alternative to the fingerprint system, but works in a similar way although no touch is required. I put my hand into the biometric scanner and within a second my vein pattern appeared on the computer screen. It was a very impressive invention and I was happy to meet with them. The university is supporting Daniel and Willy to continue to improve their system.

We met Christian, a student who is interning with the campus life team. He took us for a tour of The Break – a social area of the campus where they have a gym, ping pong tables and basketball court. It is also near the student car park. He explained that students with academic excellence receive a black card giving them access to the ground floor parking. This is an incentive to study hard and have more convenient reserved parking spaces!

Next we met with Jorge Bossio, Digital & Online E-Learning Director and one of his Business Analysts, Juan Nazario, who took us on a digital tour of the online student life. The team has developed some very innovative learning tools which make sharing and communicating with students and lecturers easier than ever before. They even explained that they have managed to record what is seen down a microscope onto an iPad so it can be recorded and shared with fellow students on campus via online discussion. We were very impressed with their cool systems.

We met the Librarian who took us for a tour of the library which had a massive 7 levels, including 128 iPads for loan, a movie loan area and a section to watch recorded classes. The rooftop provided a beautiful scene over the campus at twilight. It was such a stunning campus with the mountain backdrop.

That was the end of our tour. We had such a busy day but it was incredible to meet so many lovely people from different departments. UPC has a beautiful culture and we felt like VIPs the entire day. I was sad we couldn’t stay longer. Daniela, Gloria and Christian had been wonderful hosts and we became such great friends in just 6 hours. Thanks Peru, you know how to put on a show!

On the way to the airport we were lucky to see one piece of Lima history – the driver took us past the Huaca Huallamarca pyramid which is from the pre-Inca period. It wasn’t the clearest view at night, but I’m glad we saw a little piece of ancient Peru during our brief visit. Check back on the blog for more of my updates, or visit Torrens’ Facebook page.