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Off-Campus Study

ISA Cusco

Situated high in the Andes Mountains in Southeastern Peru, Cusco stands tall as the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. The nearby Inca archaeological site of Machu Picchu has long been one of the most inspirational destinations for countless travelers. Spaniards first arrived in Peru in the 1530s, with conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Due to heavy Spanish influence for many decades, much of the architecture in present-day Cusco is a mix of Inca and Spanish design. 

Today, Cusco is one of the must see destinations in South America, due to the preservation of its culture displayed in amazing archaeological sites, architecture, and colorful Peruvian dress. Many Cusqueños still wear traditional clothing like polleras (long, colorful skirts), play zampoñas (pan flutes), and raise llamas. In addition, the exquisite Andean cuisine provides Peruvians and foreigners alike with innovative dishes. Prepare yourself to be enamored with both culture and a constant breathtaking view of the Sacred Valley as you study abroad in Cusco.

The immersion experience in Cusco will take your handle on the Spanish language to new levels. Students will also be able to study Quechua, an indigenous language of Peru, as well as culture and history courses in English. Students receive a transcript from the prestigious Universidad de Salamanca while attending classes at the ISA Study Center.

Program Type

Approved Third Party Program


Cusco, Peru

Languages of Instruction

English and Spanish

Program Dates

Fall 2018: Early September to Early December

Spring 2019: Late January to Early May

All dates are tentative, and may change.  ISA will alert all accepted students of final dates.


To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have second-semester sophomore status or higher before participation. (Transfer students may participate after the first semester on campus)  Junior status or higher is strongly preferred.
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date. 
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods. 
  • Must have completed two semesters of college-level Spanish
  • Minimum GPA of 2.5.  


Cusco is situated on the Southeastern side of Peru, crossing through the Andes mountains. The city of Cusco is known as the archaeological capital of the Americas. Walking through Cusco is like visiting a living museum of the history of the Inca. Not only does the city have many ancient, archaeologic, and historic buildings, such as the Cathedral, the city also contains many artisan markets in the streets of San Andrés, along Avenida El Sol, in the Calle Triunfo, and in the Plaza de Armas. You are sure to find plenty to do and see on a daily basis in Cusco!


Many people who arrive in Cusco automatically notice the change in altitude (3,310m or almost 11,000 ft), along with a strong awareness of energy, a unique experience. The climate does take some getting used to, and many Peruvians recommend drinking tea to help with the acclimatization. It’s very common for most new arrivals to experience moderate altitude sickness or “soroche”. Please discuss with your doctor, ways to prevent altitude sickness before you arrive, and if altitude will have an effect on any medication you are currently taking. It’s recommended that you eat lightly, drink lots of water and rest in your first days for a smoother transition.


The University of Salamanca is a state institution that operates under the jurisdiction of Spain’s Ministry of Education and Science. Founded in 1218 by Alfonso IX of León, it is the oldest university in Spain. Some of the greatest names in Spanish literature and humanism appear on the university’s list of past students and professors. Fray Luis de León, Antonio de Nebrija, and Miguel de Unamuno are among the great figures who taught at the university. The university is fully accredited and recognized by the Spanish Ministry of Education (Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia).

The University of Salamanca’s Cursos Internacionales department (est. 1929) has for decades, set the standard for the offering of Spanish language and culture courses for foreign students. No U.S. organization enrolls more U.S. students in Cursos Internacionales than does ISA. The relationship between ISA and the Cursos Internacionales department is one of ISA’s most valued institutional relationships. Approximately 40% of the students enrolled in the Cursos Internacionales department throughout the year are from North America.

The Universidad de Salamanca Cursos Internacionales en Cusco is located at the ISA Study Center and was developed in partnership with the Universidad de Salamanca to meet the ever-growing interest in studying abroad in Cusco. Students take 4-5 classes at the study center with other ISA students, and classes are taught by local, visiting and US faculty. Students can take courses in Spanish, English and/or Quechua, culture, history, and literature, and students engage in learning that promotes understanding of their new culture and surroundings. All students will receive an official transcript from the Universidad de Salamanca, upon successful completion of the program.

Though letter grades will appear on the Lake Forest transcript, they will not factor into a student’s GPA except in calculations of honors or the Dean’s List.  Students must take a minimum of 15 credit hours to obtain the equivalent of 4 Lake Forest College credits.

More course information can be found on the ISA page.

Experiential Opportunities

In addition to their academic courses, students will have the opportunity to spend 5-10 hours per week at a host organization, increasing their language proficiency and gaining valuable international experience. Language proficiency for the placement will be determined by a phone interview before acceptance to the program. Placements are arranged prior to arrival in the host country and language requirements vary. Visit the ISA Service-Learning website for more information on placement opportunities.

Placements are coordinated by ISA and have no affiliation with the university. Students will develop a Portfolio throughout the program, documenting their projects, hours and program activities. Participants can earn 1-6 credits based on the number of contact hours accrued at the host organization and successful completion of the Portfolio. 

Placements have included an animal care center, dental clinics, medical clinics, music institutes, veterinary clinics, education placements, tourism offices, and human rights organizations. Each placement requires a different level of Spanish. Check the website to make sure you are a fit.

Student Life

Bridging Cultures Program
The Bridging Cultures Program (BCP) encompasses the ISA on-site orientation delivered to all students in the first days of their ISA program, with key improvements in areas related to goal setting, intercultural awareness, diversity and professional development. For a number of reasons, the first days that follow a student’s arrival on site offer us some of the best opportunities to effectively transmit information to program participants. While the pre-departure orientations that students receive from ISA and their home universities are also important, students are typically more ready to focus on their study abroad experience when they arrive at their host country. The BCP is designed to help ISA make the most of this important opportunity to educate students and to give students the tools that will facilitate discovery and learning during their program. The BCP is an important introduction to a new culture, a new home, and a new experience. The BCP is designed to prepare students for a successful, positive and rewarding experience that will influence the rest of their lives.

Organized excursions are included with each program to complement the academic component of the students study abroad experience. These complementary experiences are designed to engage student learning outside of the classroom in the five areas of the Discovery Model. Transportation and guided tours are included as well as hotel accommodations and breakfast during multi-day excursions. Additional optional excursions may be offered during each program that are not included in the program cost but provides students other opportunities for discovery.

Click here for a list of excursions (may vary according to session).


Cultural Activities
The ISA program staff develops unique cultural activities custom-designed to invite students to experience the local color of their host city while learning about the history and culture of their new surroundings. Speaking the native language with locals, tasting the regional cuisine, and partaking in the native traditions are just a few of the ways these cultural activities lead to full appreciation of the program city.

Housing and Meals

ISA Housing provides the opportunity for students to experience aspects of the Peruvian lifestyle that are inaccessible to the average visitor of Peru. All host families are either within a quick walking distance to Centro Tinku or are conveniently located near public transit routes relative to where classes are held. Travel times to the university vary but generally range between 10 and 20 minutes.

The experience of living in another culture will be both educational and rewarding so long as you stay open-minded and reasonable at all times. There are differences in culture and lifestyle between life in Peru and the U.S. Remember: the key to a positive experience is flexibility. With this in mind, you can become a true Peruvian!

Each homestay has been carefully selected by ISA’s resident staff in order to accommodate students’ specific needs and to ensure a comfortable living situation. The majority of the ISA host families do not speak English; however, there are some that do. Students typically have their own individual room and receive three meals per day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Laundry service at least once per week is also included in the homestay. 


A pensión is similar to a host family, however, pensioners provide housing to multiple students. There is a possibility that some may be international students. This option includes three meals per day/seven days per week (excluding excursion days) and laundry service at least once per week. Students will also be expected to coordinate meals with the meal schedule of the pensión. This is a great option for students who are more independent and would like to live with a larger number of students in a homestay setting.

Financial Information

For all approved programs for guaranteed financial aid transferability, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee.  The program fee for the ISA Cusco program includes orientation, on-site director, university fees, airport reception, internship placement, housing, most meals, laundry, several excursions, and insurance.  

Here is an estimated budget for your Fall 2018/Spring 2019 program.

Budget Item


Lake Forest College Tuition


Program fee (estimated)  


Program Deposit (credit)


Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College


Program Deposit (non-refundable)




Estimated Airfare


Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, books, supplies, personal expenses, additional travel etc.)


Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses




Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of February 2018. We will notify applicants, and update this page if the program fee or other estimates change.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate.  

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  

Do check your student account on My.Lakeforest for your aid awards, as much of this will go with you. If you want to compare your program to the cost of being on campus, those numbers can be found here: https://www.lakeforest.edu/admissions/tuition/fees.php