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A young arriero leads a mule across fresh snow in the Peruvian Andes. Photo by Benjamin Swift (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist), South America Semester.


Hey everyone! My name is Mayta (pronounced “May” like the month, and “tuh”), and I truly cannot wait to meet you all in a few weeks.


For a bit of context, I was actually enrolled in HMI’s Spring Semester in Patagonia for about a year. However, in a last-minute turn of events, the program was cancelled and I was offered a spot on the Andes Leadership Semester. At first, I was a little panicked about the switch of semesters – especially because this is a course designed for alumni, and I am certainly not an alum. However, I quickly realized that this semester offers a once in a lifetime experience and I would be out of my mind to turn it down because of fear.


I haven’t been exposed to too much wilderness exploration in my lifetime. But I’ve always dreamed of waking up in a tent for weeks in a row, living without constant access to my phone, feeling immersed in nature, and creating deep friendships through an unfamiliar experience like this. To me, this semester is a chance to start fresh by disconnecting from superficial distractions and connecting to what is real and beautiful. I am so eager to do that with you all.


Even without much experience, I feel deeply connected to the outdoors because my most spiritual and meaningful memories have occurred on mountains. They make the world feel so big, they make me feel so present, and at the top, I think they represent a lot of personal growth. To be surrounded and challenged by them for 3 whole months is a dream. My other most meaningful experiences have been through song. Coming from a music-based first semester, I feel incredibly grateful to be spending the second half of the year on this outdoor adventure with you all.


See you soon 😊,