• Student standing with Machu Picchu in background

    Capstone in Peru

  • Llama in Cuzco

    Capstone in Peru

  • Local dancers

    Capstone in Peru

  • Lima coastline

    Capstone in Peru


This program is tentatively planned to run again in summer 2021. 

Explore the breath-taking heights of Machu Picchu, the old capitol of the Inca Empire (Cusco), and the modern metropolis of Lima while completing your capstone!

Participants will gain a unique perspective on the life-sustaining resource of water. Machu Picchu and the Andes Mountains of Peru are ideal locales for observing and understanding the complex interrelationship among water, people, and the physical environment. This program is also custom tailored to teacher education students and includes visits to Peruvian school settings. 

I would definitely recommend this program to other people because it is such a unique experience that you won't experience anywhere else. There are so many things that you get to see and experience while there and the mountains and views are breathtaking. The trip leaders are great and you get to do and see a lot in a short period of time. - Amanda, summer 2019 

The program material was fascinating, the landscape was beautiful, and the people were interesting and funny and extremely friendly and helpful. - Tabitha, summer 2019 


Course Leaders

Alex Oberle, Associate Professor
Department: Geography
Phone: 319-273-6332
Email: Alex.Oberle@uni.edu
Campus Address: ITT 207

Lisa K Millsaps, Assistant Professor
Department: Geography
Phone: 319-273-7343
Email: lisa.millsaps@uni.edu
Campus Address: ITT 216 

Alex and Lisa have extensive experience traveling abroad, including travels with academic groups to such locations as the Galapagos Islands, Panama, Cuba, Chile, and Peru. Both are excited to lead this trip again in the future!


CAP 3158: The Water Planet (3 credit hours)

The geography and cultural heritage of Peru allows for an unparalleled opportunity to see firsthand and to critically evaluate the whole continuum of water issues, thus serving as a case study for these issues at a global scale and in other countries or world regions. The infusion of school visits further enhances the course for education and teaching majors, allowing them an opportunity experience teaching and learning in a different country at the elementary, secondary, and informal education level. The course focus on a commonplace, everyday resource like water, plus visits to schools and interacting with teachers/students, creates a unique opportunity for future teachers to think about how to use water as an accessible means for teaching geography and science. All majors welcome. To view the course syllabus, click HERE. 

Participation in this program requires several class meetings throughout the spring semester, although the capstone course is scheduled as a summer course. The Study Abroad Center will direct enroll participants in the capstone course during the spring semester. Please contact the program's course leader for more information on academic requirements.  


  • In order to receive Capstone credit, program participants must have completed 60 credits hours prior to the program s course start date (i.e. be of Junior standing). Students who participate in capstone programs without meeting the credit hour prerequisite will receive elective credit. In this instance, students should consult with their academic advisor(s) regarding how the elective credit fits into their specific plans of study.
  • Students planning to participate in the spring commencement ceremony in May can enroll in this summer term program, however, their degree will not be conferred until the end of the summer term and is contingent on the successful completion of the program and all required coursework.
  • Students attending colleges and universities other than UNI are welcome to participate in this program. If you are not currently a UNI student, but would like to participate in this program, please contact the UNI Study Abroad Center prior to starting your program application.
  • Capstone courses cannot be repeated. If you have previously taken this capstone course, please contact the UNI Study Abroad Center prior to starting your program application.


Sample itinerary is subject to change. Tentative travel dates abroad: May, 2021. 

Day 1: Travel to Lima, Peru

Day 2: City tour of Lima; course discussion on Miraflores beach

  • Lima is the second driest major world city and access to water is critical for the fast-growing city. The arid location is the result of the extraordinarily stable weather conditions created by the cold Humboldt Current off the Peruvian coast. The history of Lima and its contemporary urban expansions provide an opportunity to understand water stress issues and the geographic conditions that create those.

Day 3: Travel to Pachamac

  • The Pachacamac Museum received a National Geographic Society grant to reach children in adjacent low income neighborhoods through informal educational activities. The museum focuses on the Lima, Huari, and Inca civilizations represented at this site, including how these cultural groups adapted to an arid climate with only millimeters of rainfall each year. The informal education activities that the neighborhood students participate in often deal with the centrality of water access to Pre-Colombian residents and settlements. This provides an extraordinary opportunity to interact with educators and children, to see how these students work with water related activities. It also shows the museum's commitment to civic engagement and equity.

Day 4: Visit to Pontifica Universidad Catolica to interact with faculty and local students

Day 5: Travel to Cusco

Day 6: Guided walking tour of Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire

Day 7: Visit to local agricultural community in order to learn about how they access water in order to grow their crops or raise their livestock

Day 8: Visit to local river to view water quality 

​Day 9: Service learning with the organization 33 Buckets. Visit to local school for observation and discussion

Day 10: Guided Tour to el Parque de la Papa

  • Quechua and other Andean indigenous groups have practiced agriculture for centuries, harnessing water in a difficult geographic environment (mountainous, high elevation, and in a wet/dry season climate). With visits to Parque de Los Papas and other rural communities we can not only see these age old practices, but discuss them with local resident experts and interact with some of these agricultural activities.

Day 11: Free day

Day 12: Visit to local school for observation and discussion

Day 13: Guided tour of Machu Picchu with emphasis on learning on how water was used and managed

​Day 14: Visit Pisac archeological site & community, built over 1,000 years ago by the Incas

  • The Inca Civilization is well known for its architectural feats and engineering/design innovations. Many of these related to water, because of the need to channel runoff in a mountain environment and negotiate a wet/dry season to ensure that crops flourish and can provide for a civilization. The Pisac site includes many water channels, terraces, and fountains. 

Day 15: Travel to Lima for return flight to the USA in the evening; flight will arrive in the USA the following morning

Note on school visits: While the educational and school structure vary dramatically from country to country, many aspects of teaching and learning are universal. Visiting two Peruvian schools, one elementary and one secondary, provide future teachers with an opportunity to observe and interact with the school system. Soon to be teachers should recognize that the schools they will be teaching in are increasingly diverse, including English Language Learners (ELL) students who know little or no English. This program provides an opportunity to work with students who don't speak English, prompting future teachers to anticipate how they can best support ELLs in their classrooms.

Housing & Meals

Students will stay in a hotel while in Lima and with a host family while in Cusco. While staying in the host homes, breakfasts and dinners are provided by the host families. The remaining meals will be paid for by students out-of-pocket.

Note, host families have limited or no English proficiency. Students are encouraged to stay flexible and view their host family stay as a cross-cultural communication opportunity. 

Program Costs

Dates & Deadlines



The Study Abroad Center reserves the right to determine participants' eligibility to Study Abroad. Students must meet all of the following in order to be eligible to Study Abroad:

  • Have a cumulative 2.5 GPA or higher at the time of application and maintain this cumulative GPA prior to departure and throughout the study abroad process
    • If your cumulative GPA is lower than 2.5, submit the following to the Study Abroad Center (103 East Bartlett):
    • Letters of reference from two academic contacts (e.g. academic advisor and former or current professor) supporting your pursuit of study abroad. If you are attending a faculty-led study abroad program, one of the letters must be from a course leader. However, if the program has two course leaders, only one of the letters can be from one of the course leaders.
  • Must be over the age of 18 years old
  • Must meet the course prerequisites (participation in the program is dependent upon meeting these)
  • Must be in good standing with the University
  • UNI's partner institutions may require additional eligibility requirements to be met, these vary from institution to institution. Please consult with the Study Abroad Center staff to discuss these additional requirements if applicable.
  • Applicants traveling to a region of a country or a country with an overall Travel Advisory Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) or 4 (Do Not Travel) will not be eligible.
  • All study abroad applicants must pass the Study Abroad Applicant Assessment with a score of 70% or greater.
  • Applicants may be selected for an in-person interview before being accepted. Selection for an interview does not guarantee acceptance into the program. You will be contacted directly by the Study Abroad Center if selected for an interview.