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Engineering in the Americas Before Columbus (Peru)
Cusco, Peru
Program Terms: Summer
Program Dates & Deadlines: Click here to view
Fact Sheet:
Program Type: Panther Program Housing Options: Host Family, Hotel
Language Prerequisite: No prerequisite Number of Credits: 3
Internship/Research?: None Open to Non-Pitt Students: Yes
Language of Instruction: English Program Length: 2 weeks
Courses of Study: Civil and Environmental Engineering, Engineering Certificate Program: International Engineering Studies, Latin American Studies
Minimum GPA: 2.5
Program Description:

Program Overview

The Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE) and Office of Engineering International Programs are pleased to announce their newest study abroad venture, Engineering in the Americas before Columbus: Cusco, Peru. This three-credit, ten-day program focuses on providing students with an interest in structures and ancient building techniques the opportunity to study firsthand the cities of the Incan Empire in pre-colonial Latin America. The course was developed with support from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and will appeal to students from this discipline. However, students from other disciplines with an interest in the subject are welcome to apply.

Included in the program are site visits to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, Lost City of the Incas, which is situated on a ridge line high in the Andes Mountains. Students will also be given the opportunity to engage in a community service project under the supervision of local service personnel.

Participants will travel as a group from Pittsburgh to Cusco in early May under the guidance of a Pitt faculty member. Accommodations will be provided for the duration of the program and include homestays with Peruvian families. A background in Spanish is helpful, but not required, as all lectures and coursework are conducted in English.

Location Information

Cusco is situated high in the Andes Mountains in the southeast corner of Peru. At an elevation of about 11,000 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest cities in South America. The city of 360,000 is a regional capital of the Cusco Province. Cusco is important culturally and historically as the capital city of the former Incan Empire. Today, more than 2,000 varieties of potato call Cusco home.


The ten days of the program are comprised of a combination of lecture, site visits, and group project work, including participation in a community service project. The project varies from year to year, but is primarily designed to meet a pressing need in the local community. Past service projects have included designing a more efficient wood burning stove as well as assisting in the design of communities that have been rebuilt after recent flooding in Cusco Province. 
The Syllabus will be available Fall 2015. 

On-Site Faculty

luisProfessor Vallejo earned his PhD in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. He is currently a professor at the University of Pittsburgh and is the coordinator of the geotechnical engineering group in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. His research interests lie in the area of shear strength of stuff and soft clays, the mechanics of crack propagation and interactions forming part of earth dams, clay liners and natural slopes, permeability of clays with isolated fissures, and the mobilization mechanics and mud and debris flows.


Recommended Courses
The following courses fulfill the engineering humanities and social science requirement and will prepare you for a broader understanding of the culture.
  • HAA 1106 - Pre-Columbian Art
  • SPAN 0001 - Elementary Spanish 1 (or any other level of Spanish language)
  • ANTH 0715 - Anthropology of Latin America
  • ECON 1610 - Latin American Economic Development
  • PS 1321 - Latin American Politics


Program Dates

2015 Dates TBD; typically two weeks in May.


In-State Program Fee: 2015 - TBD ; 2013 - $4,000

Out-of-State Program Fee: 2015 - TBD; 2013 - $4,200
Administrative Fee: $300.00

What's Included: Tuition, all accommodations, daily breakfast and most additional meals, local transportation, site visits, and on-site orientation in Cusco. 

Additional Expenses: Estimated Airfare $1,000.00 - $1,400.00.

Personal Expenses: $300.00 - $500.00.


Estimated round trip from Pittsburgh to Cusco: $1,000 - $1,400

Housing Information

Students will live in homestays with local families in Cusco. Host families will provide most meals to students, as well as transportation to and from official program events. The homestay model is ideal for students who wish to be immersed in the local Peruvian culture. As most host families will not speak English, it is helpful for students to learn some basic Spanish prior to their participation in the trip.

Admissions Requirements

  • Prerequisite: MATH 0210 & 0220, PHYS 0174 & 0174 or equivalents
  • SSOE student in good standing, or an approved guest student from another school or university
  • Minimum 2.50 GPA for engineering students
  • Sophomore standing or higher
  • Required participation in a pre-departure orientation in Pittsburgh
  • Some knowledge of Spanish is helpful, but not required

Past Experiences 

"You should go to Peru, simple as that... it ain't about that though. Studying
abroad in Peru will expand your horizon, give you a life experience, allow
you to reflect on the American culture, provide you with life-long
friends, and whatever other mantras are applicable- which pretty much all
turn out to be true. Still, there's nothing like seeing Machu Picchu or
getting a burger at McDonald's at 1 a.m. in Cusco (every other meal you
eat should be authentic Peruvian, though)."

- Benjamin Stein (Summer '12)

Contact Information  

Peer Advising hours begin again in Fall 2014; if you would like to discuss the program, please email
Diane Hardy Saran- to schedule an appointment. 

Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2015 01/16/2015 01/30/2015 05/11/2015 05/25/2015