Immerse yourself in the language and culture of the Andes and Amazon: trek along glaciated peaks, connect with local communities, and build Spanish proficiency in a range of dramatic settings.
Note: This program may offer multiple sessions (same dates, separate groups). TBD sessions open based on demand.
Tuition is all inclusive aside from airfare and insurance fees.
The Central Andes is a region full of superlatives, existing at extremes.
From sparkling glaciers to lush tropical forests, this Gap Year program takes you through a dizzying tapestry of landscapes and cultures, exploring the links between land and people, past and present. The ancient Land of the Incas encompasses a fascinating blend of history and vibrant cultures, placed in a modern context of political change and social transformation. Through intensive Spanish language courses, trekking through a wide range of ecological backdrops, exposure to remote indigenous communities,…
From sparkling glaciers to lush tropical forests, this Gap Year program takes you through a dizzying tapestry of landscapes and cultures, exploring the links between land and people, past and present. The ancient Land of the Incas encompasses a fascinating blend of history and vibrant cultures, placed in a modern context of political change and social transformation. Through intensive Spanish language courses, trekking through a wide range of ecological backdrops, exposure to remote indigenous communities, and an extended homestay, Andes & Amazon students connect deeply with the local culture while exploring a rich panorama of Andean and Amazonian realities. Students will also examine current political trends, social movements, and environmental conservation efforts in the mountains and jungles of Bolivia and Peru.
The Andes & Amazon Gap Year program is based in the tranquil agricultural town of Tiquipaya, on the outskirts of Cochabamba in Central Bolivia. Here students live with local families, largely of Quechua descent, and have the opportunity to connect intimately with a local community. Our time is characterized by intensive Spanish instruction, exposure to local activists and social organizations in Cochabamba, and opportunities to delve into independent study topics. Based at the foothills of the Andes, this is an ideal backdrop for settling into the rhythms of a local community while offering students the time to develop critical language and leadership skills. Our Program House is situated on an organic farm, creating unique opportunities for students to engage with local food systems and agricultural practices.
Beyond Tiquipaya, the semester takes us to the fascinating twin cities of La Paz and El Alto, dramatic urban centers that sit above 13,000 feet in the midst of the sparkling snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Real. Here we partner with a local theater group in El Alto, the indigenous capital of Latin America, while meeting with local figures and exploring the bustling streets and markets of El Alto and La Paz. Excursions take us into dramatic mountain settings, traveling by foot to the base of glaciers and then down into the lush tropical forests of the Amazon basin. Peeling back the folds of time, we travel by boat along tropical waterways to lowland indigenous communities where rivers function as the only roads and the forces of past and present can be seen in stark relief. In the lowlands we are exposed to development and conservation issues in the most bio-diverse corners of the planet, while taking in the incredible cultural and ecological diversity of the Amazon jungle.
In Peru, our journey takes us around glittering Lake Titicaca to the heart of the Incan empire. Trekking routes carry us by foot to the lost city of the Incas at Machu Picchu, while remote mountain excursions take us farther afield to remote Quechua communities that exist much as they did a century ago. Our time in Peru is highlighted by dramatic mountain landscapes, exposure to remote indigenous communities, and a deeper understanding of development trends and contemporary issues in Southern Peru. A second program base in the Sacred Valley town of Urubamba provides opportunities for further homestay, language, and Independent Study immersion in a beautiful town at the foot of the Andes.
On the South America Gap Year program, expect to hone your Spanish skills while discovering the links between vibrant indigenous peoples and the diverse and breathtaking landscapes they inhabit. Students will come away with a deep understanding of indigenous political trends, important challenges in conservation and development, and a first-hand understanding of day-to-day life in some of the earth’s most dramatic locales.
Click on the gallery below to browse photos, videos and quotes from our participants and instructors.
"Soon the figures and the fire had completed their work and the pot was emptied and the smoke thinned. Before me, a bowl of steamed potatoes–the only edible plant that could take hold in the barren valley–overflowed onto the dried paja floor. One of the figures thrust an ancient, dirt encrusted hand into the steaming mound and withdrew one, peeling and eating it. I followed suit..."Ben W. South America Semester Student
Gain insight into Andean cultural and religious worldview, Amazonian traditions and practices, and the spiritual syncretism between pre-colonial belief systems and Christianity.
Engage with issues in resource management, modernization and globalization, indigenous movements and political representation, urbanization and poverty, environmental conservation, and community and sustainable development.
Explore land use and relationships, social and political activism, and indigenous identity and representation. The semester also delves into pre-Incan and Incan history and culture, the coca leaf, sustainable agriculture, and the arts.
Enjoy a three to four-week homestay outside of Cochabamba in Bolivia or the Sacred Valley town of Urubamba in Peru, with two shorter homestays in the Amazon and a remote mountain community.
Independent Study opportunities include traditional arts in weaving, dance and music, Bolivian cooking, education, Andean spirituality, traditional agricultural practices, carpentry and sustainable construction, silversmithing, and a range of topics surrounding politics and ecology in Bolivia and Peru.
Engage in three to four weeks of personalized language instruction with local teachers for 16-20 hours a week, in addition to opportunities for language immersion throughout. Quechua lessons also available.
Embrace several opportunities for community-led service engagement. Past projects have focused on sustainable agriculture, collaboration with local NGO's and community initiatives, and arts-based activities with urban youth.
Delve into homestays with limited or no amenities, extensive walking in high altitude mountains and humid rainforests, and lengthy travel by boat, bus and truck.
Participate in multi-day treks moving from the high Andes to the Amazon basin in Bolivia. Wilderness exploration also includes travel through remote rainforests of Bolivia and Peru, and a challenging trek in the Ausangate range in Peru.
In order to deepen your experience abroad, you may elect to enroll in college-level courses while participating on the South America Gap semester program.Those who enroll in an optional course will be invoiced an additional fee top of the land cost, for up to 16 college credits. To learn more, click here.
Students who take courses for-credit will receive an official transcript from a School of Record after successful completion of the program.
Through our Schools of Record, you may take the following courses for-college credit:
See full Course Offering descriptions.
“My biggest goal coming into this was to leave the trip more present, curious, and inspired. I didn’t know how to explain it but I think I was really trying to come more alive. I came alive on this trip.”
South America Semester