High up in the Peruvian Andes at an elevation of 11,200 feet sits Cusco, the once thriving capital of the mighty Incan empire and one of the most well preserved historical cities in all of South America. Currently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage and one of the most popular travel destinations on the continent, Cusco is a wonderfully enriching destination for high school programs abroad, especially for students who want to learn all about Peruvian culture and immerse themselves in the Spanish language.
High School Programs in Cusco
There are a few different types of available high school programs in Cusco, which all give students a unique taste of life in Cusco. The first is a cultural exploration focused program. These exciting trips abroad tend to last between two and four weeks and allow students to familiarize themselves with the traditions and customs of the local people while travelling throughout Cusco and other regions of Peru. Additional adventure activities, such as trips to nearby Machu Picchu, are also normally included in the program agenda.
Language Immersion is also a popular focus for high school programs in Cusco. If you are seeking to improve your Spanish comprehension, there is no better way to do so than living in a Spanish speaking country. These language programs are usually for academic credit and require students to take courses for a few hours each day and engage in additional practice outside the classroom.
Volunteering is another route that students can take when searching for high school programs in Cusco, which will immerse them fully into the Peruvian way of life. While Peru’s economy has been growing rapidly over the past decade, poverty remains a significant issue, in cities such as Cusco, and underprivileged citizens can always benefit from the help of a volunteer force. Teaching, childcare, and working at an orphanage or community center are all potential volunteer placements offered through high school programs in Cusco.
Life in Cusco
Hundreds of years ago, Cusco was the capital of the Incan empire, before the city was discovered and conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is a beautiful blend of Incan and Spanish influenced architecture. Some of the most impressive sights in Cusco include the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral of Cusco, and the Qurikancha, which was once the most important temple of the Incan empire.
While history is still very much alive in Cusco, it is the modern pulse that will provide the best opportunities for cultural immersion. Cusco is well known for its delicious “neo-Andean” cuisine, bustling markets, and plethora of respected museums. It is the most popular travel destination in Peru, partly because of its proximity to Machu Picchu, so there are a ton of exciting things for students to do during their high school program in Cusco.
Leaving home to live in another country will always come with a fair dose of culture shock, and the same is true of high school programs in Cusco. The language barrier and some elements of Peruvian culture may initially prove challenging, however with time and patience you will grow immensely from the process. Locals in Cusco are very friendly, so make the effort to interact with them as much as possible!
Scholarships & Costs
Since its economy is still developing, Cusco is an affordable city to live in for many high school students from the industrialized world. High school programs in Cusco can come along with rather expensive program fees however, so it is a good idea to take advantage of all the scholarship opportunities available. Fundraising at you local school or with friends and family is another good way to help cover the costs of a high school program in Cusco.
Accommodation & Visas
Homestays are the most popular housing option offered in high school programs in Cusco. Living with a host family is a great way to advance your Spanish fluency while forming close relationships and taking cultural immersion to the next level. If your program moves around between several destinations, then it is more likely that you will be staying in hotels, inns, and various other forms of group accommodation.
Whether or not you will need a visa to travel to Cusco depends on how long you are staying and where you are from. Most high school students will not have to worry about obtaining a visa unless they plan to stay in Cusco for longer than six months. For more information regarding your specific situation, you can check out GoAbroad’s Peruvian Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Explore History. Cusco was the capital of the Incan empire, one of the most powerful civilizations in the Americas before European colonization. Though largely built upon since the Incan downfall, there are many ancient architectural wonders that remain to be explored.
Improve Your Spanish. While in Cusco, make the genuine effort to practice your Spanish as much as possible, especially in non-classroom situations. You will be amazed at the progress you make by the trip’s end.
Witness Machu Picchu. Cusco is only about 50 miles away from Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel that is now considered one of the seven wonders of the world. Get ready to cross one of the most impressive architectural structures in the world off your bucket list!