The University of Iowa

Blending Spanish, service learning in Peru

January 17th, 2013
Macz Norton poses at Machu Picchu
Macz Norton poses at Machu Picchu

Exploring the rich culture and natural beauty of Cusco, Peru, was just the beginning for Macz Norton when she participated in the Spanish Language and Service Learning study abroad program last summer.

This eight-week program combines coursework in Spanish language and Peruvian culture with valuable service learning. The service projects are organized by an onsite company, ProWorld-Peru, which meets with community leaders to develop projects that are both meaningful for students and fulfill a much-needed service for the local community.

“It's an incredibly unique program in its blend of service, study, and immersion,” said Norton, a UI sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Immersion gave me a priceless opportunity to learn about and interact with my host family and the Peruvian way of life, but also learn about myself, in turn giving me a greater awareness of my own culture.”

Norton and a team of students worked together to build patios to keep open areas free from animals and protect homes from mud tracking during the rainy season. The team spent a few days installing clean-burning stoves in houses, as well. Nancy Guthrie, a former Peace Corps volunteer and study abroad advisor at Iowa State University, serves as the on-site director for this program.

SMThe Peru service learning program is just one of the many UI-sponsored study abroad programs that will be featured at the spring Study Abroad Fair on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the University Capitol Centre, second floor. Study Abroad advisors, former student participants, and faculty program directors will all be on hand to answer student questions about specific programs, financial aid, and available scholarships.

Unlike the larger fair Study Abroad hosts in the fall semester, this event will focus on unique, faculty-led programs that give students an intense academic experience during the summer or winter break, making them some of the most popular study abroad programs the University of Iowa offers. Almost all of these programs are led by UI faculty members.

Macz Norton sings and talks with kids in the community
Macz Norton sings and talks with kids in the community during a service project day as part of the Spanish Language and Service Learning study abroad program in Peru.

Norton’s study abroad experience was made unforgettable thanks to the incredible people she met.

“My group left saying, "Nos vemos," or "See you later,” hoping one day to return to our second home in Cusco.”  

For more information on the fair, contact

Learn more about study abroad at

This story also appeared in Iowa Now.