I chose to go to Guatemala to work on and improve my Spanish. Also, I went to Guatemala two years ago and really wanted to go back. The country captured my heart back then, so I decided I'd go back for a summer and spend more time there. I chose to do an environmental program because I'm a pretty environmentally-centered person, and I love being outdoors.
Adam is a student at Washington State University, but is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado. He loves traveling, exploring outdoors, and learning about new cultures!
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
My program provider picked me up from the airport, gave me an orientation, helped me settle into the host families, and gave me transportation to my volunteer site after I did two weeks of Spanish lessons. There wasn't much I had to organize on my own – only trips on the weekends and any additional traveling I wanted to do.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I would say try not to have any expectations. It's much better to just experience the country and your program as it happens, rather than have certain opinions about what the experience will be like. This will make the program more enjoyable, and you will likely become less frustrated by something that maybe didn't go the way you're used to. Also, it can be hard settling into the country at first, but the more time you spend there, the easier it gets, and you won't want to leave!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
In the environmental program I did, which was located at an ecological park, my hours were about 8-4/4:30 everyday, five days a week. At the park, I was fed lunch, for a small fee. Usually, lunch was around noon.
The type of work at the project varies a lot. A volunteer could do anything from planting trees up in the forest, to working in the tree nursery, or even painting and decorating buildings. Sometimes, the projects are self-driven; sometimes, they are led by a park worker.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear was connecting with the locals. I wasn't afraid about my Spanish level or any language barriers, I just wasn't sure if I'd be able to establish good personal connections like I wanted to. This was not a problem at all though! I overcame this fear by really making an effort to communicate well with the people in my host family, and they were very welcoming to me. Now I realize that this was never going to be an issue, because everybody I met there was so kind and really wanted to get to know me as well. I have so many friends there now!
Is it possible to see other parts of the country during the volunteer project?
Absolutely! Traveling around to other parts of the country was one of the highlights of my experience. You have all the weekends free, so there's plenty of time to go and play on your free time. The public transportation in Guatemala is pretty convenient and cheap as well, so it's easy to get where you want to go. I even went places with my host family too, as they wanted me to see some places around.