Amigos de las Americas

Why choose Amigos de las Americas?

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 55+ years — enable authentic engagements in communities across the region.


Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderful Program in Ecuador with AMIGOS INTERNATIONAL

My daughter participated in both the Chimborazo, Ecuador program and the Costa Rica program with AMIGOS International. She helped with a Sea Turtle program, built a trail, harvested potatoes, helped build a greenhouse, learned about the local ecosystem and indigenous cultures, helped cook local recipes with her host family, milked a cow, practiced her Spanish, and made many new friends. For parents who want their child to gain cultural awareness, practice a second language, improve their self confidence, and participate in community service, AMIGOS makes sure youth can do this safely, with appropriate supervision, and at a reasonable cost. AMIGOS provides pre-trip training for youth, has staff available for any questions or concerns, and helps students with fundraising for their trip.
AMIGOS has been sending students overseas for many decades so they know how to run a great program.

  • Your child will practice and gain confidence with the Spanish language
  • Your child will be immersed in another culture
  • Your child will participate in ethical community service
  • You need to accept you will not be in constant contact with your child while they are away
  • Best to plan ahead and take Spanish classes before you go
  • Sign up early or the program you want may fill up. There will always be a spot available in a different program though
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Loved my Amigos Trip to Costa Rica!

The Amigos program gave me a social and cultural experience I couldn’t find anywhere else and I am still infinitely grateful I had the opportunity to go. On this trip I got to meet a bunch of new and amazing people, from other volunteers and supervisors to host families and locals. I am still in contact with the other volunteers and my host family and message them daily! Every day on our trip was an amazing time getting to participate in volunteering and exploration activities and creating a tightly knit group of volunteers. The experience was also a great chance to actively speak Spanish in a real life situation and be able to communicate with people in my second language. I am so glad I chose to go on this trip and I would recommend it to every young student looking to broaden their world view and have an experience like no other!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Amigos C.R. Olas y Cerros 2023

I had an amazing experience with Amigos this summer. I took part in a 3 week program called Olas y Cerros, which was focused on environmental sustainability, conservation work, and youth leadership. We traveled to 3 main locations and stayed in a homestay with local "parents" for a large portion of the project, and my homestay experience was great. My "parents" were very understanding of anything I needed and our conversations every meal definitely helped my Spanish. I loved the projects we participated in with partner agencies, especially our work with ASTOP in Parismina, where we helped clean up beaches and watched turtle eggs hatch. I had very few, if any, negative experiences on my program and I came out of it with a better grasp of Spanish language, knowledge of Costa Rican culture, and self-awareness.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I had the awesome opportunity to try termites (live!) on a walking tour of the rainforest in Parismina.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Amigos de las Americas Panamá 2023

It's an authentic and completely immersive experience. Everyone will get a completely different experience depending on country/cohort. The program is great at mental/physical safety throughout, and ensures everyone has a great time, the staff are very supportive. It also prepares you well for going to your community. It can be difficult at times and requires independence and resilience, but is completely worth it in the end. You won't have your phone on the program which allows you to connect with people and make lifelong friends, and truly immerse yourself in the experience.

  • Program is big on safety
  • Improves your Spanish quickly, completely immersive
  • Unique, original experience
  • No contact with parents/people from U.S (no phone allowed)
  • Can be emotionally difficult
  • Having an intermediate level of Spanish is important
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Santa Elena Ecuador 4 Week Program

My AMIGOS summer program experience was incredible. I went to Santa Elena, Ecuador and stayed there for 4 weeks in total, 3 weeks in a host family. Throughout the entire trip, I met a ton of awesome people and learned a lot of Spanish and more importantly, about the culture and people. The first few days in Ecuador were spent with my other volunteers and Project Staff.
We bonded over the course of those days and went over how to be safe and healthy as well as what we would be doing in our communities. Friendships between us volunteers turned into who our community partners would be and too soon we were sent into community in groups of 2 and 1 group of three because we had an odd number of volunteers.
Being in community meant being in a host family and speaking in Spanish full time. I especially had to really only speak in Spanish because I was grouped with a Ecuadorian volunteer named Christopher.
We both had our own host families. My host family was so nice and welcoming even though I was a complete stranger living in their home. My host family consisted of my host dad, Joffre, my host mom, Diana, my older host sisters, Vivianna and Geovanna and finally my younger host brothers, John and Mateo. At first, I was shy with both my host family and Christopher but soon enough I grew comfortable around them and was able to talk to them freely and confidently.
My community, Buena Fuente was a really small community where most people knew each other and it was safer than I could have ever imagined. Most of the shops I saw in Ecuador were held in someone's home and my host family actually ran a shop where they mostly sold ice cream. Their shop ties into the community being safe because my host family's front door was almost always open during the day for the community's people to just come by and buy an ice cream because of Ecuador's hot and humid climate.
The work that Christopher and I did in community was host "extracurricular activities" in meetings on weekdays in the "Casita PLAN" which was a little building that had been built up by the organization PLAN International. During those meetings, we would try to get as many kids from the community to show up and we would have lessons about how to have a healthy hygiene, why throwing away trash is important, that the kids need to hone in on their skills and try to follow in the steps of their most significant role model. Each session started with a little "get to know you" game so that the kids could move around and get excited for the day.
Since I love playing soccer and the kids over there did too, they would drag me over to play with them and it was really fun. Sometimes we could play for hours and then have to go home because it was getting too dark to see. Playing soccer was one of the main things I did during my time in Ecuador. I was lucky to be in my specific host family because my host brother, John, loved playing soccer as well and we would play together in the afternoons with the other kids from the community but also kick a ball around inside the house.
Due to AMIGOS not allowing devices on the program, I had a lot of spare time that I didn't spend on my phone. With that time, I read the books I brought to country, I hung out with Christopher and talked with my host family about what life looks like in my city.
My host mom, Diana, would do most of the chores around the house like cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry. Most of these things I help my family do around my house and I was expecting to do more chores than I ended up doing because Diana would just tell me not to worry and do it for me.
Despite what I thought before going to Ecuador, the people of the community didn't live in poverty and although they might not have as big a house as I do, they had the essentials and were living happily.
Overall, the experience was great and I have no regrets because although some of the extracurricular activities were difficult to teach to the kids, I feel I really created lots of connections with everyone there. My host family became a close second family and I am so grateful to have been their volunteer because they really changed me. The most important things I got out of being in a home stay for three weeks in Ecuador are the friendships I made with all the people I met in Buena Fuente, what I learned about the culture in Ecuador and how I was changed in just a month.
The program went by quickly, unlike my 12 hour stay in the Panama Airport both ways. The day I had to leave my community with Christopher, all the kids were allowed out of school to come say bye to us. It was heart-warming that so many children were really eager to give us hugs and say their farewells. I hugged many of the little kids and said goodbye to all my friends and my host family. A lot of people were crying because of the sad moment and when I saw my host brother -who had become my favorite person in the community- crying, I cried as well which shows how attached I had become to Buena Fuente.
I will always remember that moment as one of the many beautiful events I was able to be a part of during my time in Ecuador.

  • I got to learn about a whole different culture and people and I got to experience the daily life there.
  • My Spanish speaking abilities and confidence were greatly amplified by participating in this program because I had to speak everyday and figure out ways to communicate.
  • I was able to make a ton of new friends and really take the time to learn about myself and
  • Communication from AMIGOS wasn't optimal when outside of the project country.


Displaying 1 - 6 of 6

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!

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

Gap Year Association Logo
Gap Year Association Logo
USA Gap Year Fairs Logo