10 Reasons We Love Peru for Study Abroad

by Laura Jelich

Resting atop South America’s western shoulder, Peru is a former Spanish colony turned ethnic melting pot; it is a place where study abroad students can enjoy cultural influences from Amerindians, Mestizo, Chinese, Japanese, and Afro-Peruvian. Put simply, there is much to like in Peru. The capital, Lima, retains some fine Sevillian-colonial architecture, but the nature reserves are the country’s true gems.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Photo by Byron Fan

Especially in famous cities, the costs of goods and services in South America have gone up with the crowds. Less touristy areas and lower costs are just some of the many reasons you should study abroad in Peru. Peru has areas still so puzzlingly underrated that few but extreme travel geeks (and the occasional professor) can name a site beyond the tourist hub of Cusco. Try the Cotahuasi Canyon or the Gocta Waterfall instead.

The insights you’ll gain, paired with impressive Spanish language skills (or Quechua for the super hardcore) and a happily satisfied belly are just some of the amazing perks you’ll benefit from during your summer or semester abroad in Peru. Read on to discover all the reasons why we love the idea of study abroad in Peru, and get excited for your trip to the Empire of the Sun.

1. Spanish Language Acquisition

In today’s global economy, it is no secret that foreign language abilities are extremely beneficial resume boosters. As the most widely spoken Romance language on Earth, in both number of speakers and number of countries where it is official language, Spanish language skills are especially useful. Students who study Spanish in Peru will be able to immerse themselves in Spanish speaking communities and eventually join ranks of over 400 million Spanish speakers worldwide.

Spanish majors and beginners alike will thrive studying abroad in Peru. With friendly locals who are both easy to understand and patient with foreigners, Peru is an idea destinations for either jump-starting or perfecting your Spanish language skills. Though Peruvians are generally interested in learning English as well, fluency is not often prevalent, so students will likely feel more confident communicating in Spanish, the more vocabulary they acquire and practice they get. Staying with a host family, one of the most common forms of accommodation abroad in Peru, is an excellent strategy for fast-tracking Spanish learning.

Cuy or guinea pig

Cuy, or guinea pig, the most traditional and sacred dish of Peru!

Photo by Morgan Benson

2. Top Notch Cuisine 

It seems Peruvian cuisine is all the rage recently, and for good reason; its flavorful and innovative culinary style fuses local exotic ingredients with international influences from Spain, Africa, and Asia. Finally receiving some long-deserved recognition, Peru recently beat out long-accredited countries like France, China, Italy, and Spain for the World Travel Award for “Best Culinary Destination”.

Students who choose Lima for their study abroad program will be pleased to know that the country’s capital city is not only considered the gastronomic capital of South America, but it is also the birthplace of ceviche, a seafood dish so renowned that there is a day nationally dedicated to its very existence. Meat-eater’s worlds will likewise be rocked by all the new species and animal parts to taste in Lima, and all throughout Peru, including classic specialties like cuy (guinea pig) and anticuchos (skewered cubes of beef heart).

3. Home-Away-From-Home Vibe

Hospitable, helpful, and genuinely interested in their visitors, Peruvians have a way of making international students feel at-home. Since hosting the earliest known American civilization, around 3200 B.C., Peru has welcomed a melting pot of people, from indigenous groups to Spanish and African colonists to Asian and European immigrants. Even today, Peru continues its legacy of acceptance, generosity, and the ever-increasing melding of nations, and students will benefit from a truly intercultural experience.

4. Inca Influence

The ancient Incas dominated much of South America throughout history to become one of the most influential civilizations in the world. Pre-Colombian history buffs will find Peru to be an especially rewarding and tough-to-beat study abroad destination. The Incas legacy and lasting influence can be seen still today, most notably through the archaeological ruins left behind. Machu Picchu, an extremely advanced and relatively intact complex located deep in the Andres, remains the most popularly visited site in Peru for a reason. Students with all backgrounds, majors, and interest areas will enjoy traveling back in time along the Inca Trail, and all study abroad students should put Machu Picchu at the top of their must-see list.

5. Historical Blend of Cultures

The ancient Inca’s weren’t the only civilization to play a part in Peru’s history. As evidenced today by Peru’s eclectic cuisine and welcoming vibe, a blend of cultures over time have contributed to what makes up modern day Peru, with historical sites to prove it. Machu Picchu is only one of the nine incredible UNESCO World Heritage sites found in Peru, but all nine were left behind by ancient civilizations, some dating back even before the Inca Empire. The Sacred Valley, the religious center of Choquequirao, the hidden fortress of Kuèlap, the geoglyphs at Nazca, the first pre-ceramic city of Caral, and the largest pre-Colombian adobe city of Chan Chan make up just a few of the many astounding places that help recreate the rich history of Peru for study abroad students.

A Peruvian woman with her daughter

A Peruvian woman with her daughter next to a layered, original Inca wall.

Photo by Rachel Rueckert

6. Flora & Fauna Fieldwork

Boasting the rank of one of the top ten “megadiverse” countries in the world, Peru’s stunning biodiversity will excite wildlife, conservation, and biology majors in general. Colca Canyon’s spectacular valley runs twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Lake Titicaca remains the highest navigable lake on Earth, and several hundred of the country’s bird and plant-species can be observed solely in Peru. Giant sand dunes, Andes peaks, and Pacific coast further add to the list of pristine draws for a range of majors and outdoorsy-type students alike.

Not to mention, the Amazon Rainforest alone is enough to entice any nature lover. Nearly 60 percent of the country falls within the Amazon rainforest, the single largest stretch of rainforest on Earth, crossing nine South American countries, accounting for one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, and responsible for about 20 percent of the Earth’s oxygen output. With such an important impact worldwide, the opportunity to study abroad in Peru, a location with such easy access to the Amazon, is an unbeatable chance for students to gain first-hand experience with the flora and fauna they have learned about from textbooks.

7. Endless Extracurriculars

Peru’s pristine geography is good for more than academic purposes, students will have no trouble filling their free time with all sorts of activities. Rafting, paragliding, zip lining, biking, and hiking make up just a few options for outdoor adventure. On weekends students may enjoy hitting up nightclubs and festivals or touring the numerous ancient ruins Peru is known for, including one of the new Seven Wonders of the World (yes, we are mentioning Machu Picchu again). Those who don’t feel the need for an adrenaline rush will likewise find plenty to do. Students can wander the city streets and admire hundred-year-old architecture, enjoy the company of new friends at local restaurants, or lounge on the beach to take advantage of the temperate coastal weather.

8. Plentiful Academics

Lima and Cusco make up the two major cities in Peru, which also happen to be most popular for studying abroad. Cusco is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs, as the old capital of the Inca Empire students can choose to learn architecture, tourism, history, anthropology, biology, economics, and Spanish. Lima is best known for its study abroad programs in the humanities, social sciences, education, business, the arts, and natural sciences, with elite institutions to boot; Lima is home to an impressive 16 institutions that are ranked in the top 300 based on QS University rankings.

Clearly, students have plenty of options to choose from when picking a study abroad program in Peru, and can even fine-tune their experience by choosing the city that most closely matches their passions and academic goals. 

9. Economical Cost of Living

Students especially concerned about their finances can take comfort in knowing Peru’s prices fall in the bottom half of South American country ranks. Nearly half that of Brazil, Peru’s cost of living will allow students to save their pennies when paying bills, and even “splurge” on weekend expenses and expeditions. Cusco is known as an especially economical destination for studying abroad, despite its high level of tourism. Nearby Machu Picchu, however, while a must-see, will likely be the most expensive activity students encounter while studying abroad in Peru.

Though Peruvian culture warrants bargaining acceptable, and even expected, in markets and with taxi drivers, initially stated prices are generally fair and students should bear in mind that Peruvians are often less well off than natives of North America, Europe, and Australasia. Food and shop prices tend to remain relatively stable, and students will find a regular coke runs only 70 cents a bottle, a loaf of bread costs around $1.75, and a pound of apples rings in at 66 cents per pound.

Salineras, salt collection ponds

Salineras, salt collection ponds

Photo by Morgan Benson

10. Unforgettable Experience

Those who choose to study abroad in Peru will be able to take part in an invaluable, eye-opening experience that will likely stick with them long past their return home. Not only will students have the chance to improve their language skills, education, and resume stats, but they will gain new friends, memories, and perspectives to boot.

Is it possible for a study abroad destination to have TOO many perks?! We don’t think so, but Peru is definitely cutting it close. Head south and enjoy it for yourself. Just don’t be mad if customs won’t allow you to bring that llama home.