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

Cusco is one of the most important cultural and tourist destinations in the world and is the capital of the Inca Empire. Situated at the base of the Andes, it’s the entryway to the stunning mountaintop ruins of Machu Picchu. The city of Cusco was declared a Cultural Heritage of Humanity site by UNESCO in 1983 and boasts charming cobblestone streets, stone buildings made by the Incas and exciting nightlife and cafes.

This is your chance to spend your summer exploring Peruvian language and culture amid this beautiful backdrop, while also making a difference in the community! You’ll earn college credit by taking Spanish classes according to your language abilities and engaging in service-learning through local NGOs.

You’ll also get to practice your Spanish as you build relationships with your Peruvian host family. Then in your free time, you can join in excursions to places like the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu.


During your program, you’ll live in a homestay with a local family who will provide full board (breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days per week) and introduce you to Peruvian life. All host families are carefully selected and experienced with hosting students.

Living with local residents is an integral part of the immersion experience and an opportunity to drastically improve your Spanish skills. Instead of simply dropping in to visit tourist highlights, you’ll get to truly experience what it’s like to be a "Cusqueño."

Program Director: Christian Lopez


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

College Participants



Spanish Language (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced) Undergraduate Course
This course enables you to develop the skills to express ideas and understand everyday conversations in Spanish. Your Spanish language abilities can improve tremendously with the integration of classroom instruction and your volunteer placement in a community agency.

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

COSA in Peru (Community Organizing and Social Activism)
The focus of this course is to explore community organizing and social activism in Peru. Your goal is to effectively translate the ideas and techniques you learn into concrete knowledge of social activism (including a practical tool set and the development of 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 in Peru. This course will complement your volunteer placement and help you develop your intercultural competence through hands-on volunteering in Peruvian NGOs and other non-profits.

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

Traditional House


Learn the practical skills to be an active agent of change and social justice! In addition to academic courses, your program will teach you the history of social advocacy in Peru and empower you to create sustainable change through hands-on service work.

As a program participant, you’ll have the opportunity to volunteer with one of several local agencies. We do our best to match your skills and interests to your placement, but please remember that the notion of service is, first and foremost, to respond to the needs of others. You will play an integral role not only by actively participating alongside your team members, but also by enriching the project with your knowledge, experience, and hard work. No matter your volunteer placement, your impact on other people's lives is bound to be powerful and meaningful.

The program offers students the opportunity to experience service in a city where, despite significant economic consolidation 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 will work 12 - 20 hours per week in shelters, educational institutions, Andean communities, natural reserves, and/or other organizations that dedicate their efforts to benefitting the less fortunate.

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

Volunteering with Children

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 three 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 8am to 1pm.

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 five 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 2pm to 7pm.

Volunteering in Special Education

CENTER OF SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHAB FOR BLIND CHILDREN ‘OUR LADY OF CARMEN’ – Centro de Educación Especial y Rehabilitación para niños ciegos Nuestra Señora del Carmen
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 three and 11 years old, and is run by teachers and the Nuns of the Congregation of the Franciscans. Volunteers help children with school work 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.

Volunteering with Young Mothers and Children

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 a 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.

Volunteering in Healthcare

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, celebrating with them at parties, 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 caretaking 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.


Things to do

Travel is an essential part of studying abroad. Taking knowledge from the classroom and applying it through direct observation allows for greater language comprehension and cultural understanding.

The location of Cusco – high in the Andes – is a great place to explore the geology, geography, culture, language, 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.

While excursions vary according to the term and weather conditions, students on the Cusco program may be able to visit Incan ruins in and around Cusco, travel to remote villages, visit Lima, tour Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, and venture into the Amazon region.

Excursions may include the following:

City Tour of Cusco: "Cusco and the Surrounding Ruins"
Visit the Cathedral, located next to the main plaza, then stop by the famous Koricancha, or Temple of the Sun. You’ll get to explore the four main ruins in the outskirts of the city, Sacsayhuaman, Puca Pucara, Q’enqo, which means “zigzag” in Quechua, and Tambomachay, commonly referred as the “Baños del inka” or Inca Baths.

"Valle Sagrado": The Sacred Valley of the Incas or Urubamba
The valley is generally understood to include everything between Písac and Ollantaytambo. It is fed by numerous rivers that descend through adjoining valleys and gorges, and contains numerous archaeological remains and villages. On your route through the valley, you’ll stop at the Awanakancha, where you can watch Andean artisans demonstrate weaving and dyeing techniques. After that, you can 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 of a wide area could retreat during a military threat. Pisaq is also well-known for the Inca terracing that sweeps around the mountain on which the ruin is perched. Finally, explore the major temple fortress of Ollantaytambo and the classic village below it, located on a river cliff at the lower edge of a canyon.

Machu Picchu!
Ride the “Expedition” train from Poroy Station, taking a spectacular journey through changing landscapes. Upon arriving 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 area 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.

AFSNext seal of approval

This program is implemented by a trusted organization within the AFSNext partnership community and has our full endorsement. While not managed or operated by AFS, it maintains the same exceptional quality standards, which are set by a network of experienced international non-profits operating within the international education field.