Studying in Lima, Peru will keep you guessing from the second you arrive until the second you leave. Diving into this high voltage city is not for the faint of heart, it is for those looking for an adventurous education. The cliffs of Lima drop steeply into the ocean, but not without an extensive outdoor mall built directly into them. The city is full of walking trails, sculptures, and interesting museums. Remnants of Spanish colonization are everywhere, but native history has not been forgotten either; several Inca and pre-Incan ruins dot the city. Studying abroad in Lima means having it all, archeological ruins, the ocean, Spanish and South American history, and challenging classes.
Subjects & Courses
The academic schedule for study in Lima runs from February till July (Semester One) and July till December (Semester Two). Many study abroad programs in Lima will run through Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru, which is one of Peru’s top rated institutions. Since Lima has such a high standard of education, it is possible to take classes in almost anything, but some programs will have one to two that are required, such as Peruvian Culture or something focused on service learning.
Archeology. Even those who don’t mean to will study archeology while studying abroad in Lima. Sites like Huaca Pucllana and others are located right in the middle of the city. You will walk by cultural sites that date back to 700 AD without even trying. The wealth of sites like these throughout Peru, such as Pisac and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Machu Picchu, have drawn archeologists and highly trained professors from around the globe. Archeology classes in Lima will include field trips within the city and nearby. You can even travel to Machu Picchu in a weekend using modern transportation, but for hiking there by an Inca Trail, you will need four to five days.
Human Rights & Urban Development. These both have particularly interesting roots in Lima. The reason Lima is such a chaotic city is that it grew far beyond expectations and at an unprecedented rate. The 80s and early 90s in Peru were tainted by heavy internal conflict. The Shining Path, a guerilla organization, gained popularity in rural areas and executed many terrorist attacks. The conflict between the group and the government resulted in the loss of many innocent lives mostly in rural areas. As a results, throngs of people moved from throughout the country to Lima, filling an already growing city. Lima is surrounded by “shanty towns” or makeshift villages many of which have their roots in this movement.
Education. The difference between rich and poor in Lima is stunning. Some neighborhoods have a limited water supply, unreliable electricity, and dilapidated and understaffed schools, while other neighborhoods have gated, shining schools, spas on every corner, and skyrise condos. The class system between European and native descendents still thrives. Anyone interested in Human and Civil Rights, Politics, and Urban Development will find themselves in a unique and fascinating environment, but education plays a fundamental role in all of these.
Life in Lima
The city has an official population of around 9 million, but other estimates that include the surrounding areas have gone over 13 million; one third of the Peru’s population is found within the city limits.Living and studying in Lima will be much like life in any other big city, but with a little more unknown around every corner. You will have easy access to every modern amenity you would see in the United States if you’re in the right area. Each neighborhood will have its own selection of shops, malls, restaurants, and nightlife to choose from. Plaza Vea is Lima’s version of WalMart and you will be able to find anything you need there at an economical price from a phone plan to groceries. For a tourist or historical experience, try visiting the Inquisition Torture Museum.
Public transportation is pretty easy to manage while studying abroad in Lima. Combis are small vans that run through the city, which are everywhere but not well maintained. These vehicles drive fast, get packed quickly, and it isn’t crazy for there to be holes in the floor and doors that don’t shut. That being said, these are easy to find and navigate after a couple of rides, a great way to meet locals, and just plain fun. The last few years have seen some incredible improvements in selection though. The Metropolitano is a more modern bus system, which offers busses that are large, clean, and have actual pre-planned routes and schedules. An electric train system is also growing throughout the city, making public transport even faster and easier.
Accommodation & Visas
Most international students studying in Lima will live in the upper class neighborhoods of Miraflores or San Isidro. These neighborhoods border each other and are about 40 minutes from Centro de Lima depending on traffic – much of Miraflores includes the coastline. Homestays are by far the most popular housing arrangement. Your “family” can vary greatly from a married couple with children at home, to a single older woman. You will typically fill out some information about your living preferences prior to studying in Lima and answer questions such as: Do you want to live with roommates? Are you okay with pets in the household? Do you have any allergies? Do you want a single or shared room? These will all help match you with potential roommates or homestays. Homestays often include two meals a day, desayuno y cena (breakfast and dinner).
Students will enter the country for study abroad as tourists and receive a visa upon arrival. Customs Officials can stamp your passport and authorize your stay for up to 183 days so depending on the length of your study abroad program in Lima, that may be all you need. If you will be studying in Peru for an entire academic year, you will need to have your tourist visa changed to a student visa for an additional fee. It is also important to note that the amount of days stamped on your passport upon arrival is at the discretion of the custom official. They don’t HAVE TO give you the fully possible 183 days so be sure to be polite and open about how long you will be studying abroad in Peru.
Benefits & Challenges
Centro de Lima. Lima’s plaza de armas is a must see. It is sprawling and absolutely identical to a city square in Spain. It is surrounded by mansions left by the Spanish conquistadores, many of which are now apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, or all of the above. However, several are preserved as museums.
High Education Standards. Studying in Lima will be demanding and rewarding. Peruvians take their education seriously. Although, your Peruvian classmates will be helpful and friendly, they will also be competitive and driven.
When does class start? Punctuality can be hit and miss even in the academic setting. Some classes will start 15 minutes after the actual start time and most will include some sort of break (una pausa) during the class. Students will walk in throughout the first half hour of class and the professor won’t bat an eye. However, know this is not always the case! Professors will give students the situation on the first day of class and layout their expectations if it is one of the classes that will actually start strictly on time.
Materials. Buying books isn’t as big of a factor when studying abroad in Lima. Most universities will have copy kiosks on campus where you can have required sections and materials printed. You will stand in line and tell the operator your class and they will print you the necessary readings.
- Weather in Lima. The climate in Lima is a little surprising since it’s in a desert. It tends to be somewhat overcast for at least part of every day and will get a little cooler than you would think. You’ll need a light jacket and some sweaters.