Explore how indigenous peoples in Peru are adapting and innovating to preserve their cultural values and shape their own future in the face of globalization and rapid change.
Examine the social, economic, political, and cultural impacts of globalization on indigenous peoples.
With 35 to 45 percent of the country’s population identifying as Andean or as a member of a native Amazonian community, Peru is an ideal place to learn about the pressures indigenous peoples currently face. You will be challenged to scrutinize the complexities of multiple identities, transformation, and marginalization.
Rapidly advance your Spanish and learn introductory Quechua, an indigenous language of the Andean region.
After orientation, you will spend six weeks with a family in a Cuzco neighborhood 10 to 15 minutes from downtown. You will take intensive Spanish and Quechua language classes as you participate in lectures on political violence, Andean and Amazonian cultures, gender issues, indigenous movements, international indigenous law and human rights, extractive industries, and the environment.
Learn field research methods and ethics in preparation for your Independent Study Project guided by a local advisor.
Advisors include host-country academics, field professionals, and other experts. The advisor works with you on the design and implementation of your research project. Once the research plan has been agreed upon, you and your advisor will communicate regularly to monitor the progress of your fieldwork.
Travel throughout Peru for three weeks.
You’ll see the Peruvian Amazon, Lake Titicaca, and UNESCO World Heritage site Arequipa. You’ll also hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and Peru’s most important archaeological site. The Inca Trail is the most famous trek in South America and one of the top 10 treks in the world.
See how communities work toward their own community development and cultural preservation in the face of shifting global influences.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Migration | Identity | Resilience
Four recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Indigenous rights, advocacy, and policy
- Community empowerment
- Identity recognition
- Historical legacies and contemporary social movements
- Impacts of global changes: society, culture, economy, and ecology
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Sacred Valley, Inca Trail, and Machu Picchu
From Cuzco, you will visit the Sacred Valley of the Incas and explore archeological sites in Pisac and Ollantavambo, meet members of an indigenous community working with traditional textiles, and visit a project working with indigenous people in the Sacred Valley.
You will then have the unique opportunity to hike 16 kilometers to Machu Picchu over two days on the Inca Trail, the most famous trek in South America and one of the top 10 treks in the world. During the trek, you will interact with and learn from the porteadores, guides indigenous to the area, who will accompany your group along the trail. You will experience diverse Andean ecosystems during the journey, hiking in altitudes ranging from 9,000 to 14,000 feet above sea level. Built at the beginning of the fifteenth century, Machu Picchu is located on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba River. It is Peru’s most important archaeological site and in 2007 was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This excursion will take place over approximately four days.
Peruvian Amazon – Madre de Dios
Madre de Dios, in the southeastern region of the Peruvian Amazon bordering Brazil, is a storehouse of tropical biodiversity and renewable and nonrenewable resources. However, the effects of globalization make this region more than a natural paradise; economic activities including petroleum, gold mining, timber, agriculture, natural protected areas, hydroelectric, and the inter-oceanic highway megaproject compete for power, resources, and rights. In the middle of these conflicts are the indigenous peoples who have occupied this region for millennia, including the Matsiguenka, Ese Eja, and Harakmbut, as well as other communities such as the Shipibos, Quichuarunas, Ashaninca, and Yines that have arrived in this region as a result of extractive displacement. These groups have organized into the Native Federation of Madre de Dios (FENAMAD) and have achieved significant advances in defense of their territorial rights.
You will travel in Amazonia for one week, where you will attend lectures from indigenous leaders and participate in local community activities. For four days, you will stay in indigenous communities and have the opportunity to learn about Amazonian livelihoods and how indigenous peoples are confronting the impacts of globalization.
Lake Titicaca and Puno
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and, by volume, the largest lake in South America. You will spend one night in Puno and visit the indigenous community of the Uros, Aymara people who live on floating totora reed islands at an altitude of 12,494 feet. When the Incas, under Emperor Pachacútec, reached Lake Titicaca in the 15th century, inhabitants of the area were forced to withdraw. Since then, the Uros have overcome harsh living conditions by relying on fishing, which is their main source of food as well as a bartering resource. But without agriculture or livestock, the Uros increasingly have sought alternative means of survival.
You will also travel to Taquile Island at an altitude of 12,507 feet, which has been populated since the pre-Columbian period and remained almost isolated until the 1970s. Adventurers started coming to the island after it was mentioned in the South American Tourism Handbook. You will stay on the island for three nights and will learn about the way of life of the Taquileños.
Arequipa and Colca Canyon
This excursion will take place over four days with one night in Colca and two nights in Arequipa. You will also visit Colca Valley, the world’s second-deepest canyon (3,400 meters deep) and home to the condor, one of the largest birds in the world. Arequipa is a UNESCO World Heritage site known as “the white city” because of the use of the volcanic white rock sillar in their buildings. The city is surrounded by three volcanoes (Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu) and integrates European and native building techniques and characteristics. It is filled with the work of colonial masters and criollo and indigenous masons who created captivating ornamental architecture. Here you will attend lectures on research methods and ethics and have the opportunity to process your learning experiences from your rural homestay.
Program in a minute-ish
Students participate in a variety of research and cultural activities throughout the semester and learn from researchers, academics, professionals, practitioners, and community experts. During the final month, students leverage their field study experience and research skills to conduct an Independent Study Project.
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- History of Indigenous Cultures in Peru – syllabus
- (LACB3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- The course begins with an examination of the history of Andean and Amazonian indigenous peoples in Peru. Students consider the prosperity and peacefulness of the precolonial period, the violence of the colonial era, and the birth and construction of the Peruvian republic, asking how indigenous populations were and were not included in the nationalist project. Students also learn about the cosmovisions of both Andean and Amazonian cultures, traditional conceptualizations of gender, land use, and other topics. With these foundations, students then shift toward contemporary issues, in particular focusing on urbanization processes as they have affected indigenous peoples. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.
- Indigenous Peoples in Motion: Changes, Resistance, and Globalization – syllabus
- (LACB3005 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this seminar, students explore contemporary transformations of indigenous groups through multiple lenses. In particular, they analyze ethnic identity within the urban environment, examining indigenous migration and "cholification", racism, and discrimination. They consider the ethnic component of political violence in Peru and study how indigenous peoples have mobilized resistance and organized to defend their cultures, territories, and local environments. Students study topics such as bilingual education movements, national law, and international rights for indigenous peoples, among other topics. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.
- Quechua – syllabus
- (QUEC1001 / 1 credits / 15 hours)
- This introductory course emphasizes building oral and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Formal instruction is enhanced by language practice during rural homestays and excursions.
- Spanish for the Social Sciences I – syllabus
- (SPAN2003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish for the Social Sciences II – syllabus
- (SPAN2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish for the Social Sciences III – syllabus
- (SPAN3003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish for the Social Sciences IV – syllabus
- (SPAN3503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this course, students hone their speaking, reading, and writing skills through classroom and field instruction. They practice reading social science literature as they learn the theoretical terms and local expressions needed to discuss sociocultural issues, to conduct field research, and to interact in settings related to the program themes. Students are placed in small classes based on an in-country evaluation that tests both written and oral proficiency.
- Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this research methods course designed to prepare students for the Independent Study Project, students learn how to organize and conduct a research project. Through lectures, readings, and field activities, students study and practice a range of basic social science methods. They examine the ethical issues surrounding field research related to the program themes and are guided through the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review process, which forms a core component of the course. By the end of the course, students will have chosen a research topic, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an Independent Study Project related to the program themes. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- Conducted in Cuzco or other approved and appropriate locations in Peru, the Independent Study Project offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice within the program's thematic parameters. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program and culminates in a final presentation and formal research paper. Sample topic areas: the role of oral histories, legends, and myths in ethnocultural preservation; knowledge transmission; changing agricultural practices; ecotourism as a community development model; grassroots empowerment; interaction between urban and rural communities; generational dynamics in cultural pride and heritage; bicultural/bilingual education; conflicts between conservation and extractive industries.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Alex Alvarez, PhD, Academic Director
A native of Cuzco, Alex received his undergraduate degree in anthropology from the National University of Cuzco, his master’s in social sciences with a focus in environmental management and development from the Latin American Social Sciences Institute (FLASCO), and his PhD in development studies from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. He received doctoral fellowships at the National Centre of Competence in North-South Research in Geneva and the Russell E. Train Education for Nature program with the World Wildlife Fund. He also received the Exchange Legacy Lelong grant for social anthropology research from the National Center of Scientific Research in France.
Alex has written specialized articles for science publications abroad about Andean and Amazonian indigenous peoples, land governance, conservation, and protected areas in indigenous territories in Peru and has been a reviewer for various Latin American journals. He provides volunteer technical and scientific support to the Indigenous Federation of Madre de Dios in southeastern Peru on issues related to environmental governance, property rights, cultural landscapes, natural resource extraction, and conservation of biodiversity in indigenous territories. He was recently nominated to be an honorary member of the TICCA Consortium based in Geneva, an honor awarded Alex in recognition of his expertise in and activism regarding issues faced by indigenous peoples.
Milagros del Carpio, Academic Coordinator
Milagros has a bachelor’s degree in social communication from the National University of San Antonio Abad in Cuzco, where she is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social anthropology. At SIT, she helps develop program activities, oversee the program structure, and assist students with daily issues and cross-cultural communication. Milagros has worked in cross-cultural and environmental education. She specializes in interpersonal relationship training, which she has done with adults and young leaders and through public service campaigns for NGOs such as CARE and UNICEF. She worked as a journalist at El Comercio and Somos in Lima, and hosted a radio program called Como en Casa. She has acted in several plays, a television production, and two films.
Ana Hermoza, MA, Program Administrator
Ana studied business administration at the National University of Cuzco and has a master’s degree in business administration and management from the University of Tarapaca, Chile. She works with students and local families to facilitate the homestay experience, handles program logistics, and assists the academic director in management of all program activities. Ana has more than 13 years of experience in NGO management, tourism, banks, and other entities, as well as six years managing study abroad and volunteer programs in Cuzco.
Julia Catalán Cervantes, Program Assistant
Julia was born in the Apurimac region in the southern Andean mountains of Peru. She is a native Quechua speaker and learned her second language, Spanish, when she was 16. Political violence forced her to leave that region, and she migrated to Cuzco. Julia has worked with the program since 2010, performing administrative duties and supporting students and staff. In 2013, she became the coordinator in charge of rural homestays and field activities on Taquile Island.
Faculty and lecturers typically include:
Alberto is a Peruvian anthropologist from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima. For the past 40 years, his professional practice has focused on the collective rights of indigenous peoples. He works as an independent consultant and has written many specialized articles and books, including Atlas de Comunidades Nativas, El Indígena y Su Territorio, and Marcando Territorio: Progresos y Limitaciones de la Titulación de Territorios Indígenas en la Amazonía.
Luis Nieto Degregori
Luis Nieto holds a degree in philology from the University Patricio Lumumba in Moscow and was a professor at the National University of San Cristóbal de Huamanga throughout periods of political violence in Peru. He is one of the most important contemporary writers in Peru. He has written several novels and short stories, many of them about political violence, as well as historic and urban novels like Señores de Estos Reynos, Cuzco Después del Amor, and Asesinato en la Gran Ciudad del Cuzco, among many others. He is also a renowned researcher and independent consultant. He is coordinator of the dissemination unit of the indigenous nongovernmental organization Guaman Poma de Ayala and the editor of the journal Crónicas Urbanas.
Thomas Moore, PhD
Thomas is a US-born anthropologist who earned his PhD at the New School for Social Research in New York. He conducted ethnological field research among the Harakbut in southeastern Peru from 1973–75 and has since maintained a relationship with them and other indigenous peoples of the region. He is co-founder, first president, and executive director of Centro Eori de Investigación y Promoción Regional, a Puerto Maldonado NGO, and has been advisor to indigenous organizations in Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia. He has taught anthropology in the United States and Peru, and has managed development programs for USAID and the United Nations Development Programme.
Ramón Pajuelo, PhD Candidate
Ramón is an anthropologist from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, Peru, and holds two master’s degrees, one in Latin American history from the Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, and one in Andean history from the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Ecuador. He is principal researcher at the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, the most prestigious social studies institute in the country. His work focuses on rural communities and indigenous peoples as well as social movements and ethnicity and politics.
Daniel Rodriguez, PhD Candidate
Daniel is a PhD candidate at Kent University, UK, and an anthropologist involved in issues relating to indigenous rights in the Madre de Dios river basin in southeastern Peru, with a special focus on voluntarily isolated indigenous peoples. Most of his work has been developed within indigenous organizations, in particular advising the Federación Nativa de Madre de Dios on the impacts of gold mining and oil and gas concessions and the potential effects of mining on voluntarily isolated indigenous peoples. He has worked with the Ese Eja people in Peru and Bolivia and People and Plants International’s Cultural Landscapes and Resource Rights Program since 2005.
Richard Chase Smith, PhD
Richard is executive director of the Instituto del Bien Común in Lima. He earned a doctorate in anthropology from Cornell University and has held positions as postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, visiting senior scientist at Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, and professor at the National Agrarian University in Lima. He has lived and worked in Peru and other Amazonian-Andean countries for the past 40 years. His primary focus has been the invisibility of indigenous peoples, with a concentration on political organization for land rights for indigenous peoples. He has also been the director of Oxfam America’s South America program for 15 years.
Lucy Ann Trapnell, MA
Lucy Ann is an anthropologist and professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú with a master’s degree in education from Bath University, UK. She is co-founder of the Programa de Formación de Maestros Bilingües de la Amazonia Peruana, a training program for bilingual Peruvian Amazonian teachers used by the indigenous confederation AIDESEP. During the past 25 years she has been involved in teacher training programs with Amazonian indigenous peoples, developed many studies, and published articles on intercultural bilingual education.
Antonio Zapata Velasco, PhD
Antonio Zapata Velasco earned his PhD in history with a specialization in Latin America at Columbia University in New York. He is well known for his research on Peruvian history and sociopolitical issues. He has been a professor at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos and currently is a professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. He is also a columnist and political analyst for one of the most important newspapers in Peru, La República. He is an associated researcher at the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP) and was formerly director and presenter of the television history program Sucedió en el Perú.
Through my studies in Peru, I learned about indigenous populations in an array of settings, from the classroom to the Amazon ...
Through my studies in Peru, I learned about indigenous populations in an array of settings. This was a kind of experiential learning which fundamentally changed the things I thought I knew about the world.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
The program includes urban and rural homestays that expose you to different Peruvian lifestyles, perspectives, and identities. By sharing daily activities with your families, you will be fully immersed within the local culture and have a unique opportunity to practice your Spanish and Quechua language skills.
You will live with a host family for six weeks in one of two neighborhoods along Cuzco’s Avenida Cultural. Activities with your homestay family may include playing soccer in the neighborhood park, taking weekend trips, or joining in celebrations and religious holidays. Through daily conversations with host family members, you will discuss your impressions and experiences of Cuzco while exchanging cultural information and insights.
You will also spend four days living with a Quechua-speaking family on Taquile Island. In this community, you will become immersed in the daily routine of the Andean countryside, including assisting your families in sowing potatoes or grazing cows or sheep.
Other accommodations during the program include hostels, private homes, and small hotels in the Amazon.
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
Spend the final month of the program working on an Independent Study Project (ISP) conducting primary research on a selected topic in Cuzco or another approved location in Peru. The ISP allows you to directly apply the concepts and skills learned in the thematic seminars and the Research Methods and Ethics course while deepening your knowledge of a topic of significance to you.
Sample ISP topic areas:
- Role of oral histories, legends, and myths in ethnocultural preservation
- Grassroots empowerment
- Ecotourism as a community development model
- Interaction of urban-rural communities
- Generational dynamics in cultural pride and heritage
- Bicultural/bilingual education
- Environmental conservation and extractive industry conflicts
- Changing agricultural practices
Students on this program represent a wide range of colleges, universities, and majors. Many of them have gone on to pursue academic and professional work that connects back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Community outreach coordinator at Escuela Verde, Milwaukee, WI
- Researcher at Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Ancon, Panama
Alumni are also advancing their studies through Fulbright, master’s, and PhD programs. Others are working in diverse areas, from the arts to academic fields related to social and economic issues.
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Community development
- History and cultural identity
- Rights, advocacy, and policy
- Research Methods and Ethics course on research methods and Human Subjects Review
- Intensive language instruction in Spanish
- Intensive language instruction in Quechua
- All educational excursions to locations such as Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Madre de Dios, Taquile Island, Colca Valley, and Arequipa, including all related travel costs
- Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $2,710
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Cuzco), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays (six weeks in Cuzco and four days with a Quechua-speaking family in Taquile Island)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $ 28
Books & Supplies: $150
International Phone: Each student must bring a phone with them to their program.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.