Study-service term in Peru leaves lasting impression on Goshen College student

Meet Anna Latsha, a Goshen College student graduating this weekend. She spent time in Peru working at an orphanage and school for deaf children.

Posted on April 24, 2014 at 6:00 p.m.

GOSHEN — Despite a language barrier and cultural differences, Goshen College senior Anna Latsha learned a thing or two about communication in Peru that she’ll be able to use after graduation.

Latsha was among a group of students who traveled to South America in fall 2012 as part of Goshen College’s first hybrid American Sign Language and Spanish study-service term in Peru. The experience left a lasting impression on the 22-year-old student who will be graduating Sunday, April 27, with more than 200 fellow undergraduates.

Latsha lived in Malaysia for most of her childhood, so she was excited to spend time in a new part of the world. The added bonus? She would be able to put her sign language skills to the ultimate test.

“Everybody always says international experiences change your life,” Latsha said.

Latsha and a group of students spent four weeks studying in Lima, Peru, and two weeks touring the country. Each student received a service assignment, and Latsha found herself in the city of Cusco in the southeastern part of the country working at an orphanage and school for deaf children.

Latsha, using a mix of American and Peruvian sign language, tried her best to overcome a language barrier with teachers and students. She advocated on behalf of the children, some of whom had multiple disabilities. She quickly learned about the cultural gaps in Peru that exist for people who are deaf and have other disabilities.

“I’ve been to other countries where deafness is seen as a curse,” Latsha said. “It’s not that extreme in Peru, but it’s definitely an embarrassment to families.”

After graduation, Latsha is heading to Texas where she had an internship with Hired Hands Inc., a sign language interpreting agency. Before she can get hired, she will have to take tests and get certified in sign language. Latsha said she is excited about graduation and embarking on the next chapter of her life.

If you go

What: Goshen College commencement ceremony

When: 3 p.m. Sunday, April 27

Where: Roman Gingerich Recreation-Fitness Center

Speaker: Joyce Bontrager Lehman will speak on "The Imperative of Providence." She is a former GC professor and past program manager at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Notes: The college will confer diplomas to 225 undergraduates and 18 master's degree candidates.

Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.

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