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Smithie spends the summer in Peru


Haisley Wert ’16 in the Amazon rainforest in Lamas, Peru.

Smith student Haisley Wert ’16, a potential Latin American Studies and Spanish major, spent three weeks in the high Amazon of Lamas, Peru during the summer of 2013. She traveled with the organization Living Routes (affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Amherst) with four other students from around the U.S. In Peru, Haisley took a seminar-style class entitled “Spanish Language through Indigenous Cuisine and Permaculture,” learning about power dynamics between the indigenous and mestizo people, examining Peruvian history and present policy, and current movements that combat deforestation and low literacy rates. Haisley enjoyed the class’s “interdisciplinary learning approach” with small group sessions and discussions; she also worked in a chacra, or garden, to grow food and learn about indigenous spirituality through plants. While in Peru, Haisley felt such an “irrepressible sense of belonging between the people and the land and their traditions.”

One issue that particularly interested Haisley was the issue of deforestation. The region of San Martín where she resided has the highest deforestation rate in all of Perú; it was common for her to see patches of forest being burned while looking out onto the mountainside. Haisley worked on a project aimed to decrease deforestation by using “terra preta soil” which was used by ancient indigenous groups more than 3,000 years ago.

This was the first time Haisley studied abroad, but she attributed her “strong sense of self” while over in Peru to her Smith education. She is interested in doing more research on terra preta soil, potentially bringing the technology to the Pioneer Valley. Haisley is hoping to use her Praxis money for the summer of 2014 and plans to study abroad her junior year.

Haisley learned about Living Routes and their program in Peru from Smith’s summer study abroad fair. Her global experience was partially funded by Smith’s International Experience Grant.

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