Class of 2020: Sofia Chilquillo gives back to her native Peru

The VCU psychology major is interning with Pan Peru USA and helping Peruvian women sell their alpaca products to U.S. markets.

Sophia Chilquillo.
Psychology student Sophia Chilquillo is helping disadvantaged communities in Peru by interning at an organization that builds libraries and computer labs in the country. (Tom Kojcsich, University Marketing)

A native of Lima, Peru, Virginia Commonwealth University senior Sofia Chilquillo could not be happier that she is able to help the disadvantaged in her country from thousands of miles away. 

She is currently working in an internship with the nonprofit Pan Peru USA, which helps disadvantaged communities in Peru by building libraries and computer labs and teaching women and children. Chilquillo is using the marketing and social media skills she learned at VCU to help build a bridge between the U.S. and Peru.

She learned about the internship through the Honors College, which she joined in 2018 to take advantage of the opportunities it offered. “Thank goodness I did that,” said Chilquillo, who will graduate next month with a bachelor's degree in psychology from the College of Humanities and Sciences. 

In her work, Chilquillo does everything from translating documents to helping the organization’s alpaca project.

“The women in Peru are running the project,” she said. “They make several products, including alpaca hats and scarves, and sell them to U.S. markets. One hundred percent of the profit goes to them.” 

Chilquillo came to the U.S. at age 18 after applying to VCU.

“I came to VCU for arts, but I changed my major,” she said. “The more I thought about psychology, it made me feel like I needed to make this change in my life. When I changed, it made me think of so many things I could do.”

She has an affinity for applied psychology where she can use psychology in different fields such as marketing. “I never thought I would end up taking classes in the VCU School of Business,” she said. “I love the flexibility we have to take different classes even if it is not your major. VCU allowed me to think outside of the box.” 

After she graduates, Chilquillo would like to gain more experience in the marketing field. “I love combining marketing with communications. I like social media,” she said. “I like psychology in the context of consumer behavior.” 

She is interested in working for a company that directly affects people’s lives, she said. “That is the field of marketing I want to get into. I would like to focus on content creation as well.”

Writing has been a pastime she has always enjoyed. “That’s the thing that keeps me going every day,” she said. “When I am studying and stressed out, I open a word document and I start typing. That calms me down. In the future, I want to publish a book, maybe a short novel. That’s part of my bucket list.”

Chilquillo said she is content to see where life takes her after she graduates.

“I don’t like to think that life is a plan we have to follow,” she said. “I like to have plans, but in the end there might be bigger things for me in the future. My philosophy is just keep going.”

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