Peru provides an ideal location for interns who want to explore South America, practice Spanish with welcoming locals, and obtain work experience in a developing country. Peru is an excellent destination for internships in human rights, health or medicine, environmental conservation, and community development. Internships in Peru also provide interns with the ideal chance to either learn or practice the Spanish language, without being overwhelmed by the slang or speed of native speakers. There are many local, national, and international organizations throughout Peru which offer internships for international participants.
The main Peruvian cities for international interns are Lima and Cusco, and these cities are where the majority of larger governmental and international organizations are based. Depending on the specific focus of your internship, you could be placed in one of these spots.
Lima and Cusco are especially recommended for internship placements in business, health, and the arts. There are many placements in rural areas or mid-sized towns of Peru, such as Urubamba, Iquitos, or Ollantaytambo, especially for internships in community development or environmental fields. Smaller villages can sometimes provide an opportunity for more in-depth involvement and tasks that larger, more bureaucratic organizations cannot.
Individuals can find internship placements in a wide range of organizations in Peru, from local nonprofits to bigger corporations. Depending on the size of the company you are working with, you may notice that the workplace organization in Peru is more structured than in the United States. You will most likely report to one head boss and might have limited individual tasks in preference of working with a group. There is a strong focus on the cooperative team environment in Peru.
One main area of internship placement is in sustainability and conservation. Whether related to water, urban planning, or resource management, there are many internships in Peru that focus on protecting the natural beauty of the country. Other well-developed areas for interns in Peru include internships in medicine and healthcare.
While of course participants should not expect to gain any active experience that they would not obtain in their home country, there are ample opportunities for shadowing, education, and community outreach in areas like nursing or dentistry. Another top option for interns in Peru is to focus on social work and community development. Poverty and a lack of basic resources are still major problems in Peru, so there are chances to make a difference focusing on human rights, child welfare, or women’s empowerment, among other things.
Participants can expect to spend between five and eight weeks completing internships in Peru, on average. Most internship placements are customized based on the interns schedule and goals, so this can sometimes be flexible. In general, interns should have an interest and a bit of experience in their chosen field, but usually if you are going on an organized program you will be able to find a placement regardless of how much experience you have.
Any Spanish you can learn ahead of time will only give you a step up, as most people in Peru do not speak English, especially in rural areas. If you already speak Spanish, you will notice many local indigenous languages spoken in Peru, such as Quechua.
Salary & Costs
Most internships in Peru are not paid and require the participant to pay for their program, which usually includes housing, orientation, in-country support, and internship placement. Though some internship placements are paid, or could be unpaid but include free accommodation, these can be more difficult to find and usually require local connections and a good level of Spanish language proficiency. The latter is possibly the most important - while you could arrange an internship on your own after living in Peru and building connections, going through an experienced organization will allow you to obtain a placement in your field and that fits your level of language and topical knowledge.
Interns will find Peru to be an affordable place to live, with typical costs being less than $1 USD for a soda, $2.50 USD for a latte, and $4 USD for a basic meal. Prices are a bit more expensive in Lima and Cusco, and brand name items like clothing can be more expensive than in the U.S.
The cost of an organized comprehensive internship in Peru depends largely on program inclusions as well as the specific location of the internship. However, you can expect to pay between $1,000 and $3,000 USD for a four-week internship, which includes housing, orientation, emergency support, and sometimes cultural excursions and meals. This is a fairly standard price for internships in South America and is less expensive than other continents, such as Europe and Australia.
Accommodation & Visas
Interns in Peru typically live in homestays or shared apartments, depending on where you are placed and what time of year you attend. If you’re interested in getting a glimpse into Peruvian culture and practicing your Spanish, a homestay is an excellent option. In rural areas homestays may be the only option because of limited housing. Apartments are more common in Lima and Cusco where there are plenty of other travelers and interns.
Most interns in Peru can use a tourist visa without any problem since they are not getting paid. A tourist visa is valid for six months, so if you are planning to join an internship for longer than that you will want to confirm with your program or work placement the logistics of staying in the country longer than six months. In general, if you go through an organization to arrange an internship, that includes housing, orientation, and other support, you can expect help and assistance in obtaining a visa.
Benefits & Challenges
By interning in Peru you may have the opportunity to make a direct impact on an organization through your tasks and projects. Participants will learn about teamwork and flexibility through their internship and will gain insight into the Peruvian business culture.
Interning in Peru can bring up unique challenges. You may be caught off guard by the overlap between personal and professional life. Female interns in Peru might also notice machismo, with bosses more likely to be male and women in support roles. Religion in Peruvian businesses is another difference, with religious representations in offices especially around Christmas.
Finally, differences in the concept of time in Peru can present a challenge in the workplace, as businesses tend to be more focused on project completion rather than keeping a set 9-5 hour day. You may have to stay late a few nights in a row, and then find that the office is getting out a few hours early the next day after a project is complete. Also, having a long lunch, staying late at work, or starting social functions late are seen as normal.