DelVal Honors Students Travel to South America to Study Peruvian History and Culture

Mar 23, 2012

“My view of our world is new now… I made discoveries that were not possible on the DelVal campus,” said DelVal Honors student Adrienne Liszkiewicz. “The opportunity to experience culture with communities that value rituals, speak a language called Quechua, depend on llamas more than a car, and color their yarn for spinning with materials that are derived from earth was invaluable.” 


Liszkiewicz traveled with a group of eight Honors students and two faculty members to Peru over Spring Break, in March 2012.  The trip was part of an Honors colloquium focusing on the unique history and culture of Peru.

The DelVal Honors program is an academic enrichment program open to approximately 50 students.  Outstanding incoming students are urged to apply to the program upon their acceptance to the college.  Students are selected for the Honors program by a faculty committee on the basis of prior academic achievement and broad academic and extracurricular interests. 

In addition to the foreign study opportunities, DelVal Honors students participate in interesting, interdisciplinary colloquia taught by the college’s best faculty and engage in independent exploration and enrichment activities.  

While in Peru, students explored the ruins of ancient civilizations, witnessed the impact of Spanish colonialism and experienced modern Peruvian culture. 

Among the highlights of the trip were: visits to the recently discovered 5000-year-old pyramids of Caral (the oldest known civilization in the Western Hemisphere), tours of historic Lima and Cusco, and visits to Incan cities of Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu.

“We marveled at the quality of Inca craftsmanship, their technological and engineering brilliance as well as their quest to live harmoniously with nature” said Dr. Jack Schmidt, co-director of the Honors program and one of the organizers and instructors of the trip.  “We developed an appreciation for Incan civilization based on our studies of their history and culture prior to the trip, but the opportunity to walk among the ruins and to see firsthand the impressive stone carving, the terraced agricultural fields and the ingenious mountain irrigation system was astonishing.  We all left with an increased respect for this magnificent society.”  

In addition to touring historic ruins, the group also spent a day in the highland village of Misminay, a tiny agricultural community located above 12,000 feet in the Andes.

The group visited locals in their small one and two-room adobe houses and shared a meal of cuy (guinea pig), choclo (Andean corn), quinoa (a grain-like crop) and other traditional dishes with the community.

After lunch, the class observed local rituals and traditional farming techniques, as well as wool dying, spinning and knitting.  The group also tasted home-brewed chicha (fermented corn beer) and participated with community members in the ritual of chewing coca leaves.

“The day we spent with the Misminay community was, for many of us, the highlight of our trip,” said Dr. Tanya Casas, assistant professor of sociology and an expert in Andean society. “The men and women welcomed us warmly into their village with Andean songs and dances, and provided us with a glimpse into a way of living very different from our own. The people were much more in tune with their natural and social environment. Many of us marveled at the level of unity and cooperation members of distinct families displayed as they worked together to prepare for us a truly exquisite meal with products from their farms. At the end of the day they hugged us as we departed and, as is custom in Quechua, said ‘see you later.’”

As in previous Honors trips to Berlin, Rome, and Vienna, students formed close friendships with others in the group. 

“There is bond in the honors group that developed at airport layovers (the trip home went through 5 airports and lasted 29 hours) and Inca ruins,” said Liszkiewicz. “It was an amazing experience to travel out of the U.S. on a short spring break to make discoveries, friendships, and memories that will never occur on the small college campus.  It was an opportunity that I will appreciate, reflect on, and be grateful for years after I receive the DelVal diploma.”

For more information about the DelVal Honors program, contact Dr. Jack Schmidt at