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Amigos de las Americas

About

Founded in 1965, AMIGOS is the safest, most authentic volunteer and immersion program in Latin America for young people ages 13 to 22. Volunteers get the opportunity to explore a new country, learn Spanish, and make a positive impact by working on a community service project side by side with local peers and community partners. Our relationships with local and international organizations — built over 50 years — enable authentic engagements in communities across the region.

Reviews

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Elliott
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Discover Amigos Panama

I have never experienced anything quite like my trip to Panama with Amigos. It was an amazing opportunity to completely immerse myself in another culture and practice my Spanish skills. I was able to have authentic experiences that would not have been available to me otherwise. Additionally, I was able to meet the best people from both Panama and around the world. Making connections with many different people that I would not have had the chance to meet otherwise was certainly one of the highlights of my trip! Also, I loved being able to try new foods, explore the beautiful nature, and learn about how the lives of people in Panama were different from, but also similar to, my own.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
The day before we went into community, the supervisors brought us these super yummy fruits called momochinos, which are red/ pink fruits that are spherical in shape and have little spikes coming out of them. You break them open and eat what is inside, and they are super sweet and delicious! I have tried to find them here in the states but they are never as good!
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Sydney
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

AMIGOS Costa Rica Monteverde y Costa Atlántica

My experience with AMIGOS this past summer changed my life. I realize that that this phrase is often thrown around on review websites to the point that it has lost its weight, but I honestly cannot think of a better way to describe the impact this program had on my life. Being someone who is very passionate about social and environmental justice, this program taught me so much. Getting to learn from the locals in Monteverde about how they are implementing sustainable practices in their everyday lives was absolutely inspiring and gave me so many new ideas about ways to live more sustainably when I returned home. Additionally, AMIGOS has crafted an incredible curriculum centered identity and privilege that we got to experience through group conversations. Both of these factors contributed to an incredible learning environment where I learned so much about the world that I was never taught in school. As wonderful as these aspects of the trip were, the most impactful part of this trip has to be the way this program put things in perspective. Everyday life on the trip looked much different than it does at home in the states. We hardly used devices of any sort, and only had access to the clothing and materials we carried with us in our bags. Though some may put this factor off as a slight inconvenience that is made up for through the other aspects of the trip, to me, this was one of the most empowering parts of the trip. I proved to myself that I did not need my phone or constant access to air conditioning to truly live and learn. In a lot of ways, I was able to fully immerse myself in the moment because I was not itching for my phone or worrying about the heat. In addition, being in a different part of the world with its own unique culture really put things in perspective for me. The people I met on the trip did not immediately ask me about my schooling or what college I wanted to attend upon meeting me. Having perfect grades and a perfect resume was not how we weighed one another's worth, which is a much needed reminder for many American teenagers. AMIGOS taught me that making an impact is not about how much money you make or how "successful" you look on paper. At the end of the day, our impact lies in how we treat the world around us— both human and natural. Thanks to AMIGOS, I plan on using my impact to its fullest.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
1) You don't need as much as you think you will! Pack conservatively (but do bring a jacket; it gets cold!)
2) Forget about the phone! I promise that you will get so much more out of the experience if you don't spend the whole time counting down to your next opportunity to use your phone.
3) Take advantage of the opportunities to meet new people! Everyone on your trip is there for a reason, and they all have so many good stories to share.
Response from Amigos de las Americas

Hi Sydney,

We are so happy to hear that your AMIGOS experience this summer really impacted your life. Thank you for sharing this!

-Amigos de las Americas

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Julian
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amigos Colorado Trip

I really liked my experience on this trip. First of all, the setting was beautiful. This was my first time out West and the mountain vistas were incredible. Pretty much everywhere we went was breathtaking. Secondly, the activities and work we did were great. Whether it was working on a farm, learning about wolves and bighorn sheep, or whitewater rafting, each experience felt educational and invigorating. I probably tried more things in those 3 weeks than any other. Perhaps most importantly, the people I went on the trip with were great. All three Amigos staff members on the trip made it as good as possible, and the 13 other participants were all uniquely interesting. Half the fun came from getting to know everyone, and I definitely made some great friends. I highly recommend this trip to anyone interested in conservation, the outdoors, getting to know others, and experiencing some independence!

Response from Amigos de las Americas

Hi Julian,

We're glad to hear you had a great time in Colorado this summer! Thank you for sharing your experience.

-Amigos de las Americas

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Maguire
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Enriched in Ecuador :)

I had the most incredible time on my Amigos trip in Ecuador. I got to live on "La Granja," a family owned farm where I milked cows, harvested herbs, planted trees, cooked fresh meals, and swam in waterfalls with my cohort. When we were not working, my group had many interesting conversations about race, gender, stereotyping, colonialism, and identity. Through these conversations I was exposed to diverse perspectives and got to know myself better than I ever have before. I always get homesick while away from family, however in Ecuador I built a new family. I still stay in touch with the friends I made even though we live thousands of miles away. I LOVED Ecuador!

What was your funniest moment?
We had a lip sync battle with the whole group one night. Everyone participated and came up with their own dance routine. Mine was so atrocious but it was a blast to participate and to laugh with everyone while they performed.
Response from Amigos de las Americas

Hi Maguire,
We are happy that you really enjoyed your time in Ecuador!
Thank you for recommending Amigos!
-Amigos de las Americas

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Khalil
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Nueva Segovia, Nicaragua

My AMIGOS experience gave me a chance to grow, learn, and have experiences I never could have dreamed of. This program had large focuses on cultural humility, community, and service. I feel like I learned so much on this trip, from classes about biofuels and solar energy at a local university, to lessons on the history Central America and cultural humility led by our supervisors, to hands on experience volunteering. Some of my highlights include repairing a clay and brick oven, exploring the Canyon of Somoto, and the many city tours focused on history and culture. But I think what made this truly great was the volunteers and supervisors I was experiencing it with. Everyone was incredibly kind and supportive, and it was so fun to spend three weeks with a group of teens like me with a passion for learning, meeting new people, and giving back to our communities. Some of my fondest memories are just the long bus rides spent talking or the nights playing cards.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic we were not able to do much volunteering, and we also didn't get to spend much time with the local communities practicing Spanish. Because nearly all of the volunteers on the trip were from the US, we almost always reverted back to English when talking among ourselves. As a result, I don't think my Spanish improved significantly over the course of this trip. However, with these covid precautions I felt incredibly safe, and these challenges would be present in any trip like this during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall this was an amazing experience that let me grow and learn about the world around me. This was one of the best experiences of my life, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a volunteer trip in Latin America.

Response from Amigos de las Americas

Hi Kahil,
We are glad you were able to enjoy your experience despite the pandemic, and felt safe with our protocols.
Thank you for recommending Amigos!
-Amigos de las Americas

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose AMIGOS because I had done a program with them in Nicaragua when I was in high school. Their gap year program seemed like the next step up and I was able to have an internship while I was abroad.

Their program was also one of the more affordable ones I found and felt more authentic because of the host family experience. They also highlight that you learn grant writing through your internship which has been a marketable skill going forward.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

AMIGOS set participants up with an internship depending on their interests and previous work experience, a host family to stay with, Spanish classes, and excursions every couple of months. They also had about a week of training in Texas that served as an orientation.

If you wanted to leave the city and plan your own trip, you totally can, but you would need to organize that on your own! Otherwise, everything you needed was taken care of by AMIGOS.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would say stay for the entire year! The program is extremely challenging but you get the hang of it after a while! Those considering the semester option might not have enough time to assimilate and make the most of their time in Latin America. And take dance classes before you go, trust me on this one.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day starts with waking up and eating breakfast with your host family, then walking to the bus stop and going into downtown where you would either go to Spanish classes or your internship. I usually met other participants for lunch or ate with my internship supervisors at their house.

After work, other participants and I would meet at a dance or yoga class. I always ate dinner with my host family and if it was on the weekend we would end the night at a discoteca!

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 the notion that taking a gap year or semester was a waste of time. It was hard to watch my friends go straight to college when it felt like I was taking a break. But as it turns out, my time abroad was extremely valuable.

Apart from learning grant writing and perfecting my Spanish, many participants and myself also found a lot of clarity in terms of what we wanted to pursue when we returned to the US. I changed my major as soon as I got to USC, largely in part from my experience at my internship in Ecuador.

What's your favorite memory from your time abroad?

As an avid backpacker, I was able to spend time in the national parks around Ecuador hiking and exploring. I expected to find some strange plants and animals but no matter how many warnings you get, the first time you run into a llama is really something. Especially when they spit.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Lauren Hauser

Job Title
Managing Director of Regional Operations, Former Project Director: Yucatan, Mexico
Lauren has worked for AMIGOS since 2012 when she served as a program mentor for the exchange program in Paraguay. From there, she ran AMIGOS programs in Mexico and now works at the National Office where she gets to find the next cohort of amazing young leaders!
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What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory was being able to run AMIGOS Programs in the Yucatan, Mexico. I fell in love with the people, the culture, and working in the Mayan communities there. Opportunities like this remind me of how similar we are in our desires, hopes and dreams. Even though many of these families had very little, they actually had a lot in terms of love. Although it was a 'work' experience, it felt like much much more.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I love that AMIGOS is a leadership organization through and through and so you really get opportunities to take on new projects, learn new things and flex your leadership muscles. I really feel like through AMIGOS roles, I have had the opportunity to learn more about myself and in turn, become a better leader with others. More tangibly, project management! What a skill to take with you for the rest of your life.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

If I could go on an AMIGOS program I would have a hard time choosing! Personally, I would love to do the projects where there is a strong indigenous community presence. I get excited to learn new languages and experience cultures. Our Paraguay, Ecuador or Mexico projects really offer students the opportunities to not just learn and practice Spanish, but also other languages like Mayan, Guarani and Quechua. Our Ecuador program also has a specific focus on youth entrepreneurship and I think it would be really interesting to learn about micro-enterprises alongside Ecuadorian youth!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I think what makes AMIGOS unique is our commitment to building young global leaders committed to service. What I appreciate is that we don't just do that with the students who pay to do our programs, but with youth locally who take part in our training program as well. Our Latin American youth are a key part of our work, as well as our host families. I am also very proud of our training program. We offer a 30 hour core curriculum that really prepares students to learn and grow in independent environments and I really believe that when we step outside our comfort zones, our opportunity to grow is nothing short of powerful!

Professional Associations