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SPARK Abroad in Peru: The Sights

July 29, 2015

This is the second post in our SPARK Abroad blog series in which Associate Director of Corporate Relations, Alex Quinn, attended the trip.

In my last blog post, I briefly mentioned some of the sites that we visited while on our SPARK Abroad trip to Peru, but I’d like to delve into them further. Although these trips are service-oriented, plenty of time was reserved for us to see all of the historical sites that Cusco has to offer.

Basílica Catedral

cathedralIn Peru a large majority of the residents are Catholic, and they recognize the Catholic Church as an important element of the nation. In light of this, there are numerous statues and historical sites that are dedicated to religion, including the first site that we went to in Cusco– Basílica Catedral. This cathedral was built on top of an Incan temple by the Spanish in an attempt to assert religious dominance over the Incans. Today the cathedral sits in the Plaza de Armas in the heart of Cusco.

Side note: Photography is forbidden in the cathedral, but the inside is gorgeous and full of history!


Once the capital of the Incan Empire, this ruin sits high in hills of Cusco, overlooking the city. This site is composed of giant boulders that have been methodically cut to fit together without mortar. Even more of a testament to Incan architecture, though, is that the architects constructed Saqsaywaman to be earthquake resistant, as well.

The Spanish once thought that this site was fortress to protect the city due to the zig-zag shape of the walls and multiple levels. Saqsaywaman is still relevant to the Peruvians as this site is a part of the Inti Raymi celebration.

Machu Picchu

sun gate viewOur Peruvian trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting the most popular tourist attraction in South America and part of the recently voted New Seven Wonders of the World. Located about 50 miles outside of Cusco city, Machu Picchu sits high in the mountains above the Sacred Valley. In order to reach the estate, we took a two hour train ride to the town of Aguas Calientes then a short bus ride up the mountain side. Just as with Saqsaywaman, Machu Picchu is an architectural marvel. The site encompasses classic qualities of Incan architecture– many of the stones possess perfect joints, thus nullifying the need for mortar and trapezoidal-shaped walls and doorways. After our tour guide was finished, we had time to explore freely, so some of us trekked up to the Sun Gate, which provides a view of the entirety of Machu Picchu.machu picchu

I wish there were words to explain how incredible this experience was. I don’t think I’ll ever forget when we walked up to the spot where you can first see the city– you have an image in your head of what it looks like, then your perception is completely shattered by the absolute beauty of it all! We were able to watch the sun rise over the mountain tops as we stood on a ledge overlooking the perfectly constructed stone walls and captivating backdrop of the Andes Mountains.

 Some other notable sites that we visited include:

  • Sacred Valley
  • Terraces of Pumatallis
  • Cristo Blanco statue

Tune back in tomorrow for the final post in this blog series. If you are interested in attending a SPARK Abroad tour this upcoming December or next June, you can visit the SPARK Abroad page on Golden Key’s website to learn more about the trips.

SPARK Abroad in Peru: The Experience

July 28, 2015

As a part of Golden Key’s SPARK a Change initiative, Golden Key has partnered with EF Tours to offer SPARK Abroad–international service-learning tours to serve at-risk youth through literacy, education and real-world preparedness. SPARK Abroad trips allow attendees to experience engaging site explorations while working side-by-side with locals on community-driven projects. Golden Key hosted our first SPARK Abroad trip this June in Peru, and Golden Key’s Associate Director of Corporate Relations, Alex Quinn, attended the trip alongside other Golden Key members.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this trip, especially considering that this would be my first real trip out of the United States (I went on a cruise once that made a couple of four hour stops in Central America). Honestly, I am not a fan of traveling– I have very little tolerance for airplanes and even less for sitting still for long periods of time– this trip has changed my attitude, though.

The majority of us attending the SPARK Abroad tour in Peru came into Lima on the same late, 1:00 a.m. flight from Atlanta, Georgia. With just a few hours of sleep, we woke up and headed back to the airport for our flight into the imperial city of Cusco, where we would spend the resounding majority of our trip.

The Weather

chorrillosAlthough we spent the majority of our time in Cusco, we were able to spend some time in the Miraflores and Chorrillos districts of Lima. Generally, the coastal city of Lima is cloudy and warm, even though it was winter when we were there. We experienced Lima at a strange time, though, because it was the year of El Niño, so the ocean water was more tolerable for winter than usual and the weather was much warm enough to wear a short sleeve shirt at night.

As much as I enjoyed Lima, I preferred the weather in Cusco, which has a completely different climate. Given that Cusco is a mountainous city located 12,000 feet above sea level, the sun has a much stronger effect than in Lima. All seven days that we spent in Cusco were sunny and warm. One could easily wear shorts and a short sleeve during the day. However, we had to plan ahead when we left the house, because once the sun goes down, the temperature would quickly drop into the 40’s and 30’s.

The Residences

cusco homeDue to our late, international flights into Lima and early morning flights to Cusco, we weren’t able to spend much time at the hotel our first night in Peru. We stayed at the Lima Wasi Hotel in Miraflores that first night. We became much more familiar with our next residence as we would spend the next five days living there.

As you drive through the streets of Cusco,cusco home 3 there were no front yards. Buildings and homes either sat right off the street or they had rather tall walls that wrapped around them, which made it hard to see what the residences looked like. When we pulled up to the walls that surrounded the home that we were staying in, we didn’t know what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised when we walked in.

The “compound” that we stayed in had six bedrooms with their own bathrooms, a living room area, dining hall and a beautiful outdoor courtyard. While we were there, we also had a cook who prepared three meals a day and a driver to take us all over Cusco.

cusco home 2 Once we completed our service project (more on this later), it was time for us to visit Machu Picchu. We had to drive roughly 40 miles from Cusco to Ollantaytambo to hop on a two hour train ride to Aguas Calientes, the base of Macchu Picchu. We stayed at the Hotel Flower’s House, which was a quick walk from the train station and to the bus stops to head up the mountain to Machu Picchu.

The Events

We were lucky enough to have visited Peru during Winter Solstice, which is not only the shortest day of the year but also the Incan New Year. On June 24 we watched as the Peruvians threw their most important celebration– Inti Raymi, or the “Festival of the Sun”. The event starts with an hour long ceremony in the Plaza de Armas, and it is celebrated with music, dances, colorful costumes and processions.inti raymi Once the ceremony is completed in the Plaza, the procession continues in the streets, and they march up to the archaeological site of Saqsaywaman.

futbolWe were also able to experience the Copa America while we were abroad. This international futbol competition brought together twelve nations (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela) to play for the cup. Although the matches were being played in neighboring Chile, our group was able to experience two Peruvian matches (Bolivia and Chile) in some local pubs in Cusco.

Tune back in tomorrow for another post in this blog series! If you are interested in attending a SPARK Abroad tour this upcoming December or next June, you can visit the SPARK Abroad page on Golden Key’s website to learn more about the trips.

AMU & APU’s Stop Hunger Now Service Event

July 23, 2015

Stop Hunger Now1On June 12, 2015 the American Military University and American Public University Golden Key chapter co-sponsored a Stop Hunger Now service event at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in Maryland with the AMU and APU Student Veterans of America. Over 200 members, officers, guests, and university staff and faculty came together for an upbeat and meaningful event.

The AMU and APU Golden Key chapter packaged an amazing 17,000 meals in under 2 hours, and the packages will be shipped to meal distribution programs in developing countries that promote education, encourage children to attend school, improve students’ health and nutrition, address gender inequalities, stimulate economic growth, fight child labor, and are part of the movement to address global issues. This exciting event was part of Golden Key’s SPARK a Change service initiative. Launched in July 2014, SPARK a Change’s mission is to impact and improve the lives of at-risk youth (ages 0-17) through literacy, education and real-world preparedness. Through SPARK, Golden Key aims to raise $40,000, dedicate 400,000 hours of service and impact 400,000 lives in local communities & around the world by 2017. The AMU and APU chapter’s outstanding efforts are helping Golden Key reach this goal.

Stop Hunger Now11427019_886283701444413_7482536130307530627_n

The chapter was honored and proud to have their Associate Director, Hamiyda Scipio, join them during the momentous service event and meet members of the distance chapter. AMU and APU students came from as far away as Japan to participate, and walk in their commencement ceremony the following day!

In addition to the Stop Hunger Now Service Event, the AMU and APU chapter of Golden Key held several events in conjunction to the university commencement ceremony, including an Honorary Member Induction Ceremony and a formal chapter meeting where new members were recognized and cords provided.

The events were a huge success!


2015 Key Chapter Award Winners

July 20, 2015

Considered to be one of Golden Key’s most prestigious honors, the Key Chapter Award is presented annually to select Golden Key chapters that have achieved a Gold chapter standard and then gone above and beyond that. The Key Chapter Award recognizes chapters who exemplify outstanding achievement and/or contributions in the areas of Golden Key’s three pillars. The Key Chapter Award goes to 22 chapters for the 2014-2015 academic year.

The recipients are:

  • Ashford University
  • California State University, Los Angeles
  • The College of New Jersey
  • Concordia University
  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
  • Norfolk State University
  • Oakland University
  • Pace University, Pleasantville
  • Rutgers University, Newark
  • Stellenbosch University
  • Universidad de Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras
  • University of Alberta
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Florida
  • University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • University of Pretoria
  • University of South Australia
  • University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix
  • University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas
  • The University of Waikato
  • University of the Witwatersrand

Congratulations to these dedicated, hardworking chapters!

Key Chapter- Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University     Key Chapter- Pace University, Pleasantville

Pictured: (1) Members from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University & (2) Members from Pace University, Pleasantville accepting the award

SPARK a Change July 2015

July 13, 2015

As of 1 July, chapters have dedicated 38,144 hours, touched the lives of 34,516 people and raised $8,489 towards SPARK a Change since its launch in July 2014. These collective actions are impacting the lives of youth around the globe! (Chapter leaders, please remember to record your events on the Golden Key website promptly after the event so we can include your accomplishments in our monthly statistics.)

Follow SPARK a Change on social media. Each month, Headquarters will be posting a challenge and a contest for SPARK a Change. Be sure to follow Golden Key on Facebook and Twitter as well as SPARK on Instagram for articles on the benefits of volunteering and posts featuring great SPARK events. If you think your chapter has a great event, please email your event details and pictures to:

July Featured Service Project:

This month, we’d like to highlight the GK headquarters staff. Golden Key Headquarters teamed up with Books for Africa to sort books for a SPARK event.  Books for Africa has a simple mission: to collect, sort, ship and distribute books to students of all ages in Africa.  The goal: to end the book famine in Africa.  Books For Africa remains the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent, shipping over 33 million books to 49 different countries since 1988.  Over the past 12 months they have shipped 2.6 million books, valued at $35 million to 27 African countries, with an additional 223 computers and 11 brand new law and human rights libraries. We’re proud to team up with such an impactful organization that cohesively aligns with the mission of SPARK a Change.


Alumni Story – Aanchal Dhir

July 1, 2015

Aanchal DhirAanchal Dhir was the Golden Key chapter president at the University of British Columbia. Now, she is the Chief Executive Officer at Ambrot Capital Inc., an investment management company. She will be starting a Master of Finance Program at Cambridge University in the fall. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk more to this successful GK alumni!

  1. Where did you grow up? Where do you currently live?
    I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta and moved to Vancouver, BC with my family 11 years ago. I feel so blessed to live in such a beautiful city.
  2. What university did you go to and what did you study?
    I studied at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. I majored in Finance and Entrepreneurship.
  3. When did you join Golden Key and for what reasons?
    I joined Golden Key after my first year at UBC. After reading about the prestige of the organization and all the opportunities that Golden Key provided, I was very keen to join and am so happy that I did. The opportunities that Golden Key offers is boundless and I have yet to see an organization that can compare to it.
  4. What are you doing now? What is your job title?
    I am President and CEO of my own Investment Management company, Ambrot Capital Inc. My company focuses on investing in the public markets on the Toronto Stock Exchange, New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, in three sectors: technology, biotechnology, and commodities. I established Ambrot Capital after graduating from UBC in 2011 and have been committed to growing it. Currently I have added an extension to my business of providing valuation services for public and private companies.
  5. What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
    Although I have a fear of heights, I have bungee jumped from the cliffs in Whistler, 160 feet in the air. It was the most exhilarating experience of my life and I highly recommend it to those who love to push their personal boundaries.
  6. What is your proudest achievement?
    In 2013, I had the rare opportunity to invest in Theralase Technologies Inc. (TSX:TLT.V), an innovative Canadian biotechnology company. TLT designs, manufactures and markets patented super-pulsed laser technology for the elimination of pain, acceleration of tissue health, and detection of cancer cells. When I encountered the company, TLT was struggling. On one end they were trying to finish development of their technology and on the other end they were deficient in capital to finance their research costs. Being an avid biotech investor and analyst, I was contacted by a high net worth investor to conduct a due diligence report on TLT. Amidst my research, I realized that TLT was at the epicentre of providing oncologists with new advancements in cancer detection and prevention. They had the technology and team to provide solutions to treat cancer patients worldwide, they just needed access to the right network. There was a direct opportunity in front of me to provide a social benefit with my investment. I then actively sought out the President to form a working relationship and became an early investor in TLT. In February 2015, Theralase was ranked one of the top ten companies in the TSX Venture 50 for its impressive growth in 2014. Furthermore, TLT announced in early May that their leading cancer drug would help oncologists detect cancer cells and micro-metastases, too small to be seen by the human eye. TLT continues to find ground breaking discoveries which will contribute to significant positive changes across the biotech landscape.
  7. What motivates you? What is the best advice you’ve ever heard?
    The fear of stagnation is what motivates me. No matter what opportunity I take on, I always strive to challenge myself to create growth and positive change. How I visualize it is that stagnation is at the bottom of the chart and with any opportunity I take on, I work towards maintaining an upward trajectory, keeping ground zero in mind, never to fall back to that level.One of my favorite poets and historians, Henry David Thoreau, once said “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” We all have dreams and goals, and no matter how farfetched they may seem at times, we must do our best to turn our thoughts into actions so that our dreams can become reality. With this exact quote in mind, I was able to accomplish my lifelong dream of being admitted to Cambridge University. If I can do it, you can.
  8. What activities and hobbies do you take part in?
    Whenever I get the chance I seek out the opportunity to race cars and to ride horses. I live for an adrenaline rush. As well, I love to volunteer and give my time to non-profit organizations and charities in Vancouver. I am currently on the Fundraising board for Kidsafe and Passage Give.
  9. Do you have a defining moment/incident/day that stands out?
    On June 12th of this year, I was admitted to the Masters of Finance Program at Cambridge University. That day I witnessed 25 years of hard work, persistence, failures, and successes accumulate together to make my dream come true.
  10. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?
    London would be the perfect place for me to live. Being present in such a historical city, which despite all the modernization, has been able to maintain its beauty and culture would be a remarkable experience. Not to mention, London is a global hub for business and finance, and being immersed in such an environment would be so inspiring.
  11. What is a fun fact about you?
    I am a very loyal and devoted Bollywood fan, so much so that I have been Bollywood dancing since I was 4 years old.

New Associate Director Spotlight: Matt Miller

June 29, 2015

MattMillerHS2We are excited to welcome a new Associate Director to the Golden Key team! Our Associate Directors are the liason between headquarters and the chapters on campus. Matt Miller is the new Associate Director for US Region 7. Get to know him better with this fun Q&A.

Where did you grow up? I grew up in North Ridgeville, Ohio – about 30 minutes west of Cleveland, Ohio.

Where did you go to college? University of Mount Union (formerly Mount Union College) in Alliance, Ohio. Go Purple Raiders!

What did you study in school/ major in? Geology, I love the earth and the environment. I’m fascinated by how it all works.

What are some of the things you were involved in, in college? I was a varsity member of Mount Union’s Cross Country and Indoor/Outdoor Track and Field teams since my freshman year. I was also a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity where I served as President my junior-senior year.


What are your hobbies? I thoroughly enjoy running, biking, hiking, and camping.


What is your favorite quote? “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” ― Harry S. Truman


What is your favorite sport? Though I love track and field, I’d have to say soccer. I really enjoy watching and playing it.


What is your favorite movie, TV show, and band?
Movie: Life Is Beautiful
TV Show: Tie – The Office and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Band: Green Day (both old and new)


If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet? Jacque Cousteau. I would love to hear about all of his adventures.


What is the #1 most played song on your iPod? Apparently it’s Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder, who knew?


What website or blog to you go to everyday? I always check CNN and BBC every day. I also go to the “What If?” blog series weekly. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it!


What is the best and worst gift you ever received?
Best: Finding my Dad
Worst: a box of nails, previously used


What excites you the most about working at Golden Key? Helping students reach their potential. I thrive on assisting others to achieve their goals and dreams. Golden Key’s pillars and values instill amazing ideals to its members, and I want to help them be the best they can possibly be.


Fun Fact? I have a twin brother! He’s the same age as me, in case you were wondering.


Anything else we should know about you? You should know that I have the worst luck in the world with losing socks. I wish I knew where they all went.




You can also connect with Matt on Facebook.



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