Spanish Immersion Program in Guatemala

(Click here to view a Gallery of Photos from past trips)

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Director of the program: Rita Wirkala

Place: La Antigua, and Panajachel, Guatemala

Date: Three to four weeks between Summer Quarter and Fall Quarter. Dates for Summer 2003 will be August 24 - September 21.

General Objectives: Study of the Spanish language, immersion in the culture, community service, and an introduction to the social-economic situation of Latin American countries.

     a) 5 credits in any of the levels of Spanish 100 and 200.
     b) 3 credit course in "Social Justice in Latin America."

   All credits are transferable to any four-year university.

Cost of the program: Summer 2003 will be $2000.


About the program:

The Spanish instruction is one-on-one, that is, one teacher per student. (see photo)

Students receive 50 hours of instruction (4 hours a day), studying for 2 weeks with Probigua Academy of language (a non-profit school in Antigua - see photo) and 2 weeks with Jabel Tinamit in Panajachel (see photo).

Students live with local families, which provide meals, a private room, hot water and purified drinking water. The program includes several field trips of cultural interest, such as to the Mayan weaver cooperatives, small coffee farms supported by the Fair Trade organization, and rural schools and libraries around Antigua, in the beautiful region of Lake Atitlan (see photo)

This project was envisioned as an alternative to the more costly and longer programs provided by the community colleges and universities. It also gives an opportunity to those students who need to take credits during all of the four quarters of the academic year, and hence have a shorter "window" before the Fall quarter.

The program is also an alternative one in a cultural sense, since in Guatemala students have an opportunity to live in genuine, real-life contact with members of the Mayan community in one of the most indigenous regions of the Western Hemisphere (see photo)

Students also have the chance to experience the reality of a truly Third World country, understand some of the social causes and current problems, and get involved in community service.

What has been accomplished:

The Guatemala program was carried out for the first time in September 2000, through Shoreline Community College. The SCC group consisted of 15 students. As a group, we left a donation for a Mayan girl from a remote village to cover her tuition for secondary education at a boarding school in Antigua, "Instituto Indigenista Nuestra Señora del Rosario".

The positive feedback I have received since our return prompted me to propose this program to Bellevue Community College. In September 2001, we took 25 students through BCC. As part of our community service commitment, we took five computers donated by Garfield High School to a non-profit organization in Guatemala (ACIMMA) and another computer for the library in the town of Santa Cruz la Laguna. We also paid another year of tuition for the same Mayan girl we had sponsored in the 2000 school year through SCC group. The reception at the Instituto Indigenista is one of the most memorable events for our students, who fraternized with the Mayan students singing songs and trying their indigenous clothes.


The BCC program was also very successful. In August 2002, the program was offered to Shoreline Community College. Due to the experienced gained through the previous year, last year program was richer in extracurricular activities, such as the showing of documentaries, lectures, salsa classes, and field trips.

The community service component was also extended to included:

- Voluntary work teaching English to a class of Middle School students in Santa Cruz La Laguna, a student's voluntary job as a librarian for a whole week, traveling with the itinerant library of Probigua to different towns of the country.

- Visits to rural schools to leave donations (See photos: In San Juan, Going to Santa Cruz, Rural school children, Donations in Santa Cruz, Donations in Chimaltenango)

- First contact with the coffee cooperative farm in San Lucas Tolimán, with the purpose of selling their products in the Puget Sound region.

For Summer 2003, the program will be offered by Shoreline Community College for 8 credits: 5 credits in Spanish Language and 3 credits in "Introduction to Social Justice in Latin América".
Updated 4/7/03 Contact: Rita Wirkala
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