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Explore Guatemala
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LEARNING AWAITS

From language school to climbing volcanoes to cultural exchange: this is going to deepen how you see the world.

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Overview

The goal is to immerse ourselves in new experiences and new cultures.  Guatemala is not like Europe or Costa Rica.  Most people who live there are indigenous.  Poverty is huge.  When you travel on a chicken bus you’re expected to share your seat, if  you’re lucky enough to get one,  with at least three or four other people.  Yes, we’ll go to touristy areas and boat across gorgeous lakes nestled between volcanos while eating fresh mangos, but we’ll also try and connect with local lives and real places where the lifestyle and world view will be so different from yours that it’s hard to even understand.  We will spend time during the fall to talk about what kind of experience participants want and the skills they’re wanting to develop. Staff will be on hand to offer support and meaningful engagement throughout the ten weeks abroad.

During our travels you will be able to see firsthand important issues playing out like deforestation, poverty, women’s rights, and immigration issues.  You’ll cross boards and see less lucky potential immigrants waiting to do the same. You’ll stand among 30 chicken buses and try to find the one going to where you want to go.  You’ll meet people who grow their living on an acre of steep rocky hillside and others who support their family selling tacos.  You’ll collect stories of their lives and yours and share them over an avocado picked straight off the tree.

Itinerary Overview

We begin in Phoenix Arizona.  We’ll go camp in the desert and catch up with each other and swap stories about our winternships.  Next we’ll divide into smaller groups (each with a staff) and make our way south to and then through Mexico.  It will mean over a 1000 miles of staring out the window at different lives and worlds, stopping now and then to get out and explore and sample the local food.  We’ll cross the border into Guatemala, get on a chicken bus and head to Lake Atitlan where will spend a week together getting oriented to Guatemala and make plans for independent and smaller group activities and travels.

Then you go off and adventure.  Staff will be available for anyone who encounters any issues.

Now and then we’ll come altogether to share stories, create new options and groups, exchange back massages and horchata, and get ready to do it all again.

Finally, we come together and head north again, this time going a different way through Mexico.  We’ll end up in Arizona where we’ll celebrate and part ways.

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Costs

We will pay for your overland transport to and from Guatemala.  We will also pay for some room and board expenses for the time that the whole group is together in Guatemala.

For the most part, however, you will be in charge of your own budget.  Our plan is to only collect from you $6750 of the $8250 total gap year tuition.  The remaining $1500 we will ask you to have available, partly in cash and partly on a debit card, to cover your individual food and travel expenses.   You’re in charge of the budget.   Those of you who are thrifty during travel time and who take advantage of cheap options during independent travel like, for example, volunteering with organizations through Workaway or WWOOF that help cover food and lodging during your stay, will save money and have extra to pocket or spend.  Others who buy lots of drinks and snack or who pursue more expensive options for independent travel times like yoga retreats and guided trips, can expect to need to balance your spending with some frugal times or to spend additional amounts of your money.

Choose your adventure….

Sample adventures:

Study Spanish and experience cultural immersion with homestays

Work on a reforestation project

Explore the volcanos, trails, caves, lakes, and beaches

Volunteer on organic farms or coffee plantations

Explore your spiritual side with yoga, meditation, and traditional healing

Surf, eat mangos, kayak through mangroves

Get a job at a local cafe

Learn indigenous skills from boat making to weaving

Early Action: January 15
Regular Action: February 15
Rolling Admissions: April 1

 

Previous programs have filled quickly. We recommend applying early.

  • Guatemala

    Take daily one-on-one Spanish lessons to bring your language skills to the next level. Immerse in culture with a homestay and build lasting relations with your host family. Work on a reforestation project for community lands illegally logged. Kayak across Lake Atilan, from village to village. Learn about indigenous history and culture.

  • Are you ready to.....

    Explore the volcanos, trails, caves, lakes, and beaches from El Peredon to Semuc Champei. Meet people from all over the world and be part of a global community. Spend Semana Santa in Antigua and take part in the processions. Head down to the Yoga retreat with somebody you just met from Estonia and then go buy a papaya and fresh made tamales at the outdoor market.

  • Can't wait to.....

    Surf. Eat mangos. Kayak through mangroves. Get a job at a local cafe. Volunteer on organic farms or coffee plantations. Learn indigenous skills from boat making to weaving.

Guatemala Travel Semester FAQs

WHAT DOES OUR DAILY SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE?

The answer depends on where we are and what we’re doing.  Most days we’ll be up with the sun, either meeting that farmer or border patrol agent or hiking to the next canyon.  We’ll do things all things and then settle in for a meal we cook outside and connection around a campfire and sleeping under the stars.  At least once per week we’ll have a day off for doing laundry, sleeping in and generally taking care of ourselves.

ARE THERE ANY ADDITIONAL COSTS?

The program fee includes all food, housing, transportation and activities while the group is together but does not include your individual transportation to and from Denver and optional spending money for personal purchases or activities. You will need a passport and to provide your own health insurance.  You will also be asked to come with some of your own outdoor equipment, like a sleeping bag, hiking boots and a water filter.  An equipment list will be provided after you are accepted to the program.

WHAT IF I HAVE SPECIAL FOOD NEEDS?

We are  accustomed to meeting the needs of vegetarians and vegans, although you should expect to eat local beans and walnuts rather than avocados and soy cheese.  We can also minimize gluten, although it has proven challenging to serve those who are strongly celiac (we have done it).  If you have special food needs that aren’t easily met with a local, whole foods diet, you might need to supplement with your own snacks.  Please talk with us well in advance about your special needs.

WHY DOES THIS PROGRAM COST MORE THAN OTHER HIGH DESERT CENTER PROGRAMS?

These 15 weeks prioritizes the depth and sheer volume of learning experiences.  We will travel thousands of miles, meet a host of experts from two countries, hire quality staff and guest teachers, stay at research stations, hike into the Grand Canyon and generally do everything we can to maximize your learning and experience.  Hiring experts, visiting iconic places and college credit all cost money, and still, we feel that this semester is a great value for the sheer quality and quality of the learning and experience.

WHAT KIND OF PHYSICAL CHALLENGES SHOULD I BE PREPARED FOR?

 Participants should already be in decent shape by the time they arrive, able to comfortably walk six miles with a pack in two hours as backpacking in steep country will be a significant portion of this semester.

WHAT POLICIES & PROCEDURES WILL I BE ASKED TO AGREE TO IN THIS PROGRAM?

We will ask you to sign an agreement form that includes:

  • No use of drugs (including tobacco and marijuana) and alcohol.
  • Doing your share of cooking and cleaning.
  • Abiding by fire and general safety procedures.
  • Participating fully in program activities unless there is agreement otherwise.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

  • Participants, and their parents if participants are not legal adults, will be asked to sign a release form before the program starts acknowledging the risks associated with this program.  They include the risks inherent to backcountry travel in rough and remote county, traveling in Mexico, working on farms, and travel in vans and cars driven by staff.
  • Participants are often unsupervised by staff during days off and certain adventures.
  • Participants, by consent, may also engage in dumpster diving, skinny dipping, and other unconventional but safe adventures.

WHAT FORMS ARE NEEDED AS PART OF THE APPLICATION?

After the interview, if you have been offered enrollment, we will hold your spot for two weeks and ask you to make a $1000 payment and complete and send in medical history and consent forms as well as an acknowledgement of risk form.  When we receive these, we will formally accept you and give you a spot in the program.