Burgos presenting about her experience in the Peru-Corral Redondo field school before her peers, professors, IFR donors, and board members.
“As one of the 2018 Vera Campbell Promise Scholarship recipients I was allotted the opportunity to share how attending an IFR field school has impacted my life. I was accepted into the Peru: Corral Redondo field school, and awarded a scholarship through the Vera Campbell foundation to pursue my dreams of becoming an Andean archaeologist. However, what was supposed to be a month long stay in the Churunga Valley in Peru was actually only five days. I am an Ecuadorian-American, undergraduate, anthropology/ archaeology student at California State University, Los Angeles. My desire to be an Andean archaeologist clearly stems from a need to connect with my South American cultural roots. Being accepted into the Peru: Corral Redondo field school was the embodiment of that dream come true, or so I thought. I believed that working in Peru was the perfect opportunity to enrich my academic career, but what I did not realize at the time was that the trip was going to be transitional for me in all aspects of my life.
I decided to leave the field school after just five short days for a number of reasons, most of which are related to severe cultural shock that I experienced once at the site. I share a lot of things in common with the habitants of the Churunga Valley including religious beliefs and social practices. I was able to relate to the concerns and worries of those around me more than the other students on the field school. I also found difficulty in working with human remains, an important part of the field project, because of these cultural beliefs. The first night in the field was something of a nightmare for me because as soon as the sun set I had the most intense panic attack of my entire life. Luckily, I was in the company of amazing staff and supportive teammates who helped me work through it. Although the shortness of breath had stopped, I was never able to shake off the uneasiness living inside of me. Two days after the panic attack I made the conscious decision to return home.
All of these scary moments aside, if anyone were to ask me if I at all benefited from the field school I would say, “Yes, in more ways than I could have ever imagined.” You see, I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I have lived most of my life being voiceless, constantly letting life and various opportunities pass me by. However, making the decision to leave Peru was the first time I ever stood up for myself. I could have stayed in Peru and been unhappy, but instead I chose to go home and take care of my mental health. Something that I have been putting on the back burner for many years. The field school, the scholarship, and those that supported me were all instrumental in helping me finally break a vicious cycle of self-loathing and self –doubt. I am more than grateful to be able to share this story.
I learned many things about myself on my IFR journey starting from the moment that I decided to apply to a field school through the institution. When I returned home I had a lot of time to not only reflect on what had just occurred, but also how I was still going to use this experience to my advantage. Most importantly though, I realized that I want to continue to be supportive to others like myself. I do not share my field school experience for sympathy or to scare people from attending a field school, instead I would like to encourage people to continue to push through life one scary moment at a time.”