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College Credit Available

The below description has been provided by our implementing program administrator and is subject to change.

Program Overview

Come to Cusco…the ancient Incan capital and gateway to Machu Picchu!

This unique college credit program has been developed to serve the Cusco community through a variety of volunteer placements in partnership with local NGOs.

This program includes a volunteer placement, college credit Spanish classes according to the student’s level, and a variety of other courses. Your Spanish classes will emphasize conversational skills while you learn about Peruvian culture and lifestyle.

Cusco is one of the most important cultural and tourist destinations in South America and the world, and is the capital of the ancient Inca Empire. Situated at the base of the Andes, it is the entryway to Machu Picchu, and the city of Cusco was declared a Cultural Heritage of Humanity site by UNESCO in 1983. Cusco boasts charming cobblestone streets, stone buildings made by the Incas, and exciting nightlife and cafes. Excursions may include a city tour, a visit to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and a trip to Machu Picchu. Students arrive in Lima and spend several days visiting this important Latin American capital, which is known as the “City of Kings.”


You’ll live in a homestay with a Peruvian family who will introduce you to Peruvian family life. An integral part of the program, the homestay offers you the opportunity to make life-long friends, reinforce your language skills, and experience the culture from the inside. All host families are carefully selected and experienced with hosting students. By living with a local host family, you’ll get to know what it’s like to be a “Cusqueño” and dramatically improve your Spanish proficiency! Partial board is included.

Program Director(s): Cristian López


The program welcomes students of any nation who have a high school diploma or equivalent credential. TOEFL equivalent 550. Academic studies and college courses are taught in Spanish and/or English. (See individual course descriptions.) There is no minimum Spanish prerequisite. The program can accommodate novice to advanced Spanish language abilities.

Villlage in Peru


Your program is both academic and service-learning oriented. Universidad Andina del Cusco offers students up to 18 credits, and the majority courses are taught in English.

The Cusco program is ideal for students with any proficiency level in Spanish. As on your home campus, class schedules and availability may change. Unless otherwise noted, courses are at the 300 level except for any foreign language course whose level will vary.

Spanish Language (Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced) Undergraduate Course (Required)

This course enables students to develop conversational skills in order to express ideas and understand everyday situations. Your Spanish language skills can improve tremendously with the integration of classroom instruction and your service placement in a community agency.

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. Credits: 3

Community Organizing and Social Activism in Peru (Required)

The focus of this course is to explore community organizing and social activism in Peru with the goal of developing a practical tool set and a personal ethic of advocacy that can be applied across cultures. The course starts with an overview of social change institutions, explores the history and ethics of international service, and moves to the examination of past and current political and social movements and advocacy efforts in Peru. Students will learn the theories and practical realities of intercultural service-learning in a Peruvian context. This course complements community service placements and helps students develop their global competence. Topics are examined through the prism of hands-on community service in Peruvian NGOs and other non-profits and include intercultural communication, the mechanics of Peruvian non-profits/NGOs, local civic engagement/advocacy efforts, and the exploration of civil society.

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. Credits: 3

Introduction to COSA (Course Offered ONLINE) Undergraduate Course (Required)

This course is delivered virtually and begins before departure and completes after returning. The content includes both pre-departure and post-departure information, discussion, and reflection. The course explores the theories and practical realities of intercultural service-learning to help students make the most of their international experience. One credit will be awarded for 15 hours of academic reflection and two credits for hands-on volunteering.

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. Credits: 3

Possible Electives

International Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. Credits: 3

Indigenous Cultures and Traditional Health and Healing

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. Credits: 3

Environmental Sustainability and Biodiversity in Peru

Biological diversity is one of the most valuable assets our society has in order to achieve sustainable development. This course explores Peru’s natural resources and progress toward meeting sustainability goals, while also taking into consideration the need for economic growth and social equity. The goal of this course is to address the complex issues of environmental sustainability as they relate to biodiversity in Peru.

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. Credits: 3

Environmental Justice as a Social Movement

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. Credits: 3

Quechua Language

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. Credits: 3


Houses in Cusco, Peru

Volunteer Service

As an service-learning participant in Cusco, Peru, you’ll have the opportunity to do volunteer work in one of several local agencies. We do our best to match your skills and interests to the placement, but please remember that the notion of service is, first and foremost, to respond to the needs of others. You will play a role not only by actively participating in a team, but also by enriching the projects with your knowledge, experience, and hard work. Your impact on other people’s lives will be powerful and sustainable, even if you don’t see the results right away.

The service-learning program in Cusco, Peru offers students the opportunity to volunteer in a city where, despite significant growth in recent years, needs in the areas of economic development, human services, and the environment continue to be felt. Students in Cusco can make a contribution that benefits the environment, disabled children, micro-business owners, artisans, and other social groups. Participants in the program will work 12 – 20 hours per week at shelters, at educational institutions, in Andean communities, in natural reserves and for other organizations that dedicate their efforts to the development of the least advantaged.

Types of volunteer service in Cusco

Below are examples of agencies where students have served in the past or may be able to serve. Other service placements may be available. Your placement will be determined by community and agency needs, logistics, as well as your interests, goals, and skills.

Volunteering at shelters for orphaned children

Help entertain children with field trips and activities geared toward learning and having fun. Volunteers will play with children and help them with their homework. You could also serve as a teaching assistant. In addition, volunteers will be free to develop and execute a small project to improve the shelter’s infrastructure or facilities.

Volunteering at natural reserves

Get a firsthand look at some of Peru’s main species of flora and fauna while volunteering at a natural reserve. Volunteers will take part in projects to conserve the ecosystem, help clean rivers and streams, care for trees and gardens, provide support in the design and implementation of a site museum, work as guides at the reserve, and raise public awareness about protecting endangered species, such as the Peruvian condor.

Volunteering in benefit of children with disabilities

Volunteers will learn about caring for children with disabilities and help with nutrition, education, grooming and entertainment. Patience and tenderness are required of participants in this program, as the children may be physically and emotionally sensitive. By giving your time to these children, your reward will likely be boundless love!

Volunteering with children to promote skill development

Volunteers will transmit their knowledge in order to help children develop artistic skills and express themselves through educational games, music, painting and other activities. Guitars, flutes, tambourines and other musical instruments will be used to help engage children.

Volunteering in support of public schools

Education is a fundamental human right: every child is entitled to it. It is critical to our development as individuals and as societies, and it helps pave the way to a successful and productive future. Education ends generational cycles of poverty and disease and provides a foundation for sustainable development. Volunteers have the opportunity to participate in different educational activities and initiatives with disadvantaged children of different ages. We are committed to ensuring that all children realize their potential to succeed through quality education. To that end, we focus on the most excluded and vulnerable children. Volunteer activities at Cusco public schools may be varied, including helping with educational activities, preserving internal green areas, developing small-scale projects to improve areas for studying, and teaching English, crafts, or painting.

Volunteering to support artisans in Cusco communities

This program is mainly directed toward young people and women with low incomes. It is aimed at strengthening the enterprising attitude found among many Peruvians, as well as helping them achieve success with their small businesses. This process empowers these people to become catalysts for transformation, development and inclusion. Volunteers will go to production areas and provide support to artisans and micro-business owners. Wood, clay and woven fabrics are some of the materials that you’ll learn to handle while helping with daily tasks in the fields and production areas. Volunteers will have the opportunity to help communities improve their products, designs, and packaging to help increase their commercial sales.

Past volunteer service placements have included:

CENTER FOR NUTRITIONAL WELLNESS AND EARLY STIMULATION – MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA – Centro de Supervisión Nutricional y Estimulación Temprana Madre Teresa de Calcuta

The Center for Nutritional Wellness and Early Stimulation “Madre Teresa de Calcuta” helps malnourished children and children at risk of malnutrition between the ages of 6 months to 3 years. At the moment, 25 children are being served: 15 boys and 10 girls. Volunteers help children and their mothers to complete everyday chores as well as organize teaching and recreational activities. Volunteers are involved with feeding, changing, helping nurses, helping in the kitchen, organizing exercises and games, etc. Other projects that students may participate in include renovating the dining room or developing the design of the playground area. The center is located four blocks from the USIL International Center and two blocks from Cusco Main Square. The center is located five minutes walking distance from USIL housing or from USIL school facilities.


Huillcapata School is a public school that provides primary education to 70 children with limited financial resources, whose ages range from 3 to 14 years. In the rural community of Huillcapata, international volunteers have been supporting the majority of the community’s infrastructural improvement. They have conducted repairs, painted, cleaned, and upgraded the kitchen and library, as well as improved the greenhouse and facilitated the donation of compost. Furthermore, the volunteers have helped to organize activities for Christmas. Volunteers teach a basic English course for both students and their parents, along with developing cultural and recreational programming. These activities are done every Friday from 8 am to 1 pm. Volunteers at the Huillcapata School should possess a playful spirit, humor, creativity and a lot of room for love in their hearts! The site is located in a rural area 40 minutes from the city of Cusco.

JUVENILE HOME SAN JUDAS CHICA – Hogar de Niños San Judas Chica

The San Judas Chica Juvenile Home welcomes girls between the ages of 5 to 12 years old who are in state of material and moral neglect, usually referred by the courts for minors. Volunteers will help with school work, teach English, organize leisure and recreational activities, develop social reintegration workshops, and support occupational training workshops. Volunteers may also help in workshops dedicated to making and selling shoes and wood work, as well as in the kitchen and laundry. This institution is located 10 minutes walking distance from the center of Cusco. Volunteers may work from Monday to Friday from 2 pm to 7 pm.


This is a public school that is dedicated to the rehabilitation of children with hearing and visual impairments or other sensory disabilities. Currently the center is home to 76 children between the ages of 3 and 11 years old, and is run by teachers and the Nuns of the Congregation of the Franciscans. Volunteers help children with schoolwork and everyday chores, as well as plan recreational activities. Volunteers at this center should possess patience and a willingness to learn while working with children with special needs. The center is located 15 to 20 minutes using public transportation or 10 minutes by taxi from USIL facilities.


MANTAY Center is the home of 13 adolescent mothers between the ages of 12 and 18, with their children (ages from newborn to 7 years old). The center has 17 people working as permanent staff who are divided into educational areas, nursing, cleaning, and instructors of occupational workshops for mothers. Volunteers will provide help to the staff in charge of the children´s care while their mothers are working. The center is located 15 to 20 minutes using public transportation or 10 minutes by taxi from USIL facilities.

ST. JOHN OF GOD CLINIC – Hogar Clínica San Juan de Dios

This charity institution is directed by the Brothers of the Hospital Order of St. John of God and a staff of health workers dedicated to the service of children and adults with disabilities. Volunteers are involved in supporting hospitalized children by taking them to school, organizing parties for them, preparing food, and helping with laundry services. Volunteers should have a big heart to share with the children! At San Juan de Dios, there are a variety of duties supported by international volunteers, including care taking and recreational work with children, infrastructure improvement, as well as cooking, washing, and cleaning duties. Volunteers should possess patience and tenderness, as the children may be physically and/or emotionally sensitive. As a reward for your work, you’ll likely get to experience boundless love and tenderness from the children. The “Hogar Clínica San Juan de Dios” is located 10 minutes by taxi or 15 minutes by bus from USIL facilities.

MENTAL HEALTHCARE INSTITUTE JOHN PAUL II – Instituo Asistencial de Salud Mental Juan Pablo II

This institution is dedicated to the care of 40 patients with alcohol, drug, and gambling addictions as well as other mental disorders, of which 27 are males and 10 are females. Volunteers become active members of the patient care staff, motivating their recovery, helping in educational programs, organizing therapy workshops, etc. Volunteers should possess a strong personality and confidence as well as the mental strength to work with adults facing difficult recovery situations.

Purple flowers cascading down a wall

Things to Do

The location of Cusco – high in the Andes – makes this program attractive to any student who is interested in the geology, geography, cultures, languages, food, and history of South America. Students on the Cusco program live in the Andean highlands, but also have access to the Amazon cloud forest and basin, the Pacific coast, and the vibrant political and culinary capital of Lima (population 10 million). In addition, Cusco is the starting point of the train that takes you to Machu Picchu – one of the most visually stunning places on earth, and a memorable UNESCO World Heritage Site.

While excursions vary according to the term and weather conditions, students usually visit Incan ruins in and around Cusco, travel to the outskirts of Cusco to remote villages, tour Lima, visit Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, and venture into the Amazon region. The program normally includes a city tour of Cusco: “Cusco and the Surrounding Ruins,” where students visit the Cathedral, located next to the main plaza, then stop by the famous Koricancha or Temple of the Sun. It includes a visit to the four main ruins in the outskirts of the city, Sacsayhuaman, Puca Pucara, Q’enqo, which means “zigzag” in Quechua, and Tambomachay, commonly referred to as the “Baños del inka” or Inca Baths. Students have the opportunity to visit the “Valle Sagrado” – The Sacred Valley of the Incas, a valley in the Andes that’s near the ancient sacred city of Machu Picchu. The valley is fed by rivers that descend through adjoining valleys and gorges, and contains numerous archaeological remains and villages. The area was one of the empire’s main points for the extraction of natural wealth, and the best place for maize production in Peru. On route through the valley, stop at the Awanakancha, where you can watch Andean artisans demonstrate weaving and dyeing techniques. Various South American animals can also be seen here, including llamas, guanacos, vicuñas, and alpacas.

Next, you’ll visit the stupendous ruins of Pisaq, a fortress that is still an enigma to archaeologists. It is a classic Inca Pucara, a huge defended area into which the entire population could retreat during a military threat. Finally, explore the major temple fortress of Ollantaytambo and the classic village below it, set out on a cliff at the lower edge of a canyon. For an overnight excursion to Machu Picchu and the thermal springs in the village of Agua Caliente, students can ride the expedition train from Poroy Station, taking a spectacular journey through changing landscapes. Upon arrival in the town of Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu, students are guided on a three to four hour private excursion through the ruins and surrounding areas to experience the energy and atmosphere of one of the most significant and spectacular archaeological sites on the planet.

Students in Cusco may also work with program staff to arrange for independent travel to Lima and other regions of Peru. As with all travel, weather and other hindrances can affect the exact destinations of excursions. In such cases, program staff make every effort to find suitable replacement itineraries. Machu Picchu landmark in Peru