A Dragons group taking in the view.

Guatemala Semester

Spanish Language & Social Justice

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

Enroll
Duration
80 Days
Description

Build Spanish language fluency, examine models of political activism, and engage with diverse Mesoamerican communities and cultures.

Spring Dates

Feb 11 - May 1, 2023


Spring Availability

open

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Dec 3, 2022


Fall Availability

five spaces

Group Size (4:1 Ratio)

12 Students
3 Instructors


Suggested Ages

17-22

Spring Begins In

39 Weeks

Fall Begins In

18 Weeks

Tuition

$15,950

plus airfare.

Tuition Details

Tuition is all inclusive aside from airfare and insurance fees.

San Juan la Laguna

Pachaj

Antigua

Tikal

Flores

San Juan Cotzal

Naha, Sierra Lacandona

San Cristóbal de las Casas

Program Overview

Rising out of the sea at a confluence of three tectonic plates, this causeway of cultures and ecological diversity is a focal point of change.


Program Highlights
  • Deepen your Spanish language skills through personalized instruction and an extended homestay on Lake Atitlán.
  • Explore the vibrant colors, flavors, and ancestral landscapes of the Maya people.
  • Support community projects and social justice movements in Guatemala and southern Mexico
  • Hike to the top of ancient temples in the Caribbean rainforest as dawn breaks over the horizon.

Today the communities sharing in this Mesoamerican heritage continue their legacy of adaptation, responding to rapid environmental and social challenges with innovative communal strategies. The Guatemala Semester takes a hands-in-the-dirt approach to understanding indigenous culture and collective life in Guatemala and Mesoamerica through extended rural homestays, one-on-one language study, work on communal farms, and a participatory examination of land-use, migration, and social justice.

Program Highlights
  • Deepen your Spanish language skills through personalized instruction and an extended homestay on Lake Atitlán.
  • Explore the vibrant colors, flavors, and ancestral landscapes of the Maya people.
  • Support community projects and social justice movements in Guatemala and southern Mexico
  • Hike to the top of ancient temples in the Caribbean rainforest as dawn breaks over the horizon.

Today the communities sharing in this Mesoamerican heritage continue their legacy of adaptation, responding to rapid environmental and social challenges with innovative communal strategies. The Guatemala Semester takes a hands-in-the-dirt approach to understanding indigenous culture and collective life in Guatemala and Mesoamerica through extended rural homestays, one-on-one language study, work on communal farms, and a participatory examination of land-use, migration, and social justice.

In the western highlands of Guatemala, over eighty percent of the population is indigenous Maya who maintain a legacy of rich cultural survival and community strength in the face of persistent external pressures. Living with hospitable indigenous families, working in el campo, and learning Spanish in personalized classes, we begin our semester with an experiential understanding of Mesoamerican culture and the legacy of conquest and resistance that has played out here for five centuries. In San Juan la Laguna, a Tz’utijil Maya community on the shores of Lake Atitlán, herbal healers, weavers, and community leaders share their knowledge on a range of topics through Independent Study Projects.  From Lake Atitlán, we wind our way into the protective folds of the Cuchumatanes Mountains where local communities share their accounts of Guatemala’s thirty-six year civil war. Their stories help us understand the root causes of Guatemala’s colored human rights record, sharp economic inequalities and underrepresented indigenous populations.

Heading east into Guatemala’s tropical lowlands, we drop down into the Caribbean rainforest.  In the Rio Dulce river basin, we engage in learning service opportunities with our friends at Ak Tenamit, an organization that works in remote communities to promote education with an emphasis on female empowerment. We also visit Livingston and the Caribbean coast, spending time with the Afro-indigenous Garifuna population.  Conversations with local NGOs working in human rights, community health, and development help us gain an understanding of contemporary struggles for sustainable development and identity in Guatemalan society.

The final phase of our itinerary takes us across the border into the state of Chiapas in Southern Mexico, where we deepen our exposure to Mesoamerican culture and traditions of resistance. Here, at a great distance from the country’s capital, communities have long relied on local solutions to social and environmental challenges. In the face of political strife, civil conflict, and rapid globalization, local communities have joined together to come up with creative and revolutionary responses in the form of people’s movements, progressive organizations, and innovative technologies. While living in homes with local farmers and deepening our Spanish language skills, students learn about Chiapas’s history of revolution and resistance, climb mystic ancient temples, and explore the delicate encounter between past and present in this colorful and contested territory.

Through a rugged and intimate exploration of some of the most remote regions of Mesoamerica, the “Spanish Language and Social Justice” semester unearths the complex issues facing indigenous and peasant communities working towards sustainable development and cultural conservation today. With Spanish lessons, rural homestays, and learning service at the forefront, this semester program provides an experiential and fresh perspective on relationships with land, tradition, and community.

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Program Components

3/5
Religious & Spiritual Traditions

The syncretism of Catholicism and Maya spirituality, Maya cosmo-vision, cycles of time, Latin American Protestantism, community based movements.

5/5
Social & Environmental Justice

Modernization and globalization, impact of education and tourism on indigenous culture, exploration of minority empowerment issues, sustainable agriculture, social justice issues.

4/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Land use, grass roots organizing, sustainable agriculture, globalization, indigenous rights, social justice movements.

5/5
Homestay

Homestays in several communities in Guatemala and Southern Mexico ranging from 1-4 weeks in length.

3/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

ISPs facilitated primarily in San Juan la Laguna. Multiple opportunities for study with local organizations and mentors. Options include traditional weaving and textiles, Maya spirituality, medicinal plants, sustainable agriculture, painting and the arts, and exploration of socio-political issues.

5/5
Language Study

4-6 weeks of one-on-one or small group interactive instruction, four to five hours a day, language immersion in home-stays.

3/5
Learning Service

Volunteering at the Chico Mendes reforestation project, work with sustainable agriculture, collaboration with local NGOs and community based projects.

3/5
Rugged Travel

"Chicken bus," truck, and boat travel. Hikes to remote villages.

2/5
Trekking

Two multi-day treks with remote community stays in Guatemala and possibly Southern Mexico.

Optional College Credits

In order to deepen your experience abroad, you may elect to enroll in college-level courses while participating on the Guatemala 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.

College Course Offerings

Through our Schools of Record, you may take the following courses for-college credit:

  • SPAN 150: Spanish I, SPAN 250: Spanish II, SPAN 350: Spanish III
  • ANTH 103: Introduction to Anthropology
  • COMM 215: Introduction to Intercultural Communication
  • ESM 101: Environmental Sustainability
  • ESM 102: Global Perspectives
  • ESM 199: Climate Change and Its Impacts
  • GEOG 230: Environment and Society
  • HIST 199: Colonialization and Western Influences
  • INTL 199: Globalization Awareness and Community Development
  • INTL 299: Leadership Across Borders
  • MGMT 199: Social Entrepreneurship
  • MGMT 199: Sustainable Hospitality and Tourism in Practice
  • MGMT 299: Principles of Economics
  • PHE 299: Healthcare Systems and the Affected
  • PHL 299: Introduction to Spiritual/ Religious Studies & Their Roles in Culture
  • PSY 204: Psychology as Social Science
  • SOC 199: Self and Community – Culture, Cohort, and Self

See full Course Offering descriptions.