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

Upcoming Events

  1. Wed 5 October
    Picking the Right Summer Program

    With so many summer opportunities, how do you know what's right for you? Find out more about what projects fit your interests and goals and how to choose the right program.

  2. Sun 9 October
    Environmental Volunteering in Latin America

    Thinking about volunteering abroad to protect the environment? Find out more about AMIGOS programs in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama that focus on topics like climate change, food justice, ecotourism, and sustainable development.

  3. Wed 12 October
    All About AMIGOS Programs

    Find out everything you need to know about AMIGOS summer programs! Choose a group, homestay, or hybrid project, stay for 2, 3, 4, or 6 weeks, and focus on a theme that fits your interests! Learn more at our info session.

Reviews

Default avatar
Staci
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

AMIGOS de las Americas- A Transformative Experience

Our fifteen year-old son participated in AMIGOS de las Americas Cartigo Y Caribe service program this summer and as my title states, it was a transformative experience. He was immersed in the culture, experienced multiple cities in Costa Rica and was able to provide service. AMIGOS did an amazing job of preparing him and us for his three week experience. He came home with such an appreciation for Costa Rica and learned invaluable skills. Safety is of the utmost importance in AMIGOS and we knew that we could trust the organization with him.

Pros
  • Training and Spanish brush up provided
  • Safety first
  • Complete on-boarding experience
Default avatar
Russell
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Exceptional experience in every way!

The Colorado Amigos experience exceeded all of our expectations for our 17 year old son.

My wife participated in an Amigos program in northern Mexico in the mid 1990's and, to this day, the experience, learnings and friends have truly been life changing for her. As we were evaluating programs for our son, Amigos was one of several that we researched.

Throughout that discovery process, from the Zoom information sessions to the 1:1 engagement with their leadership team and follow up touchpoints our son had with recent alums of the program, it was clear it was not only first class but also very well structured, organized and led.

The application process was straightforward and the pre-trip communication excellent. There are a number of things that you have to do that I wasn't expecting, such as physical and mental health clearances, travel power of attorney, etc., but they were administrative and not a hassle. The pre trip Covid protocols were a bit stressful as you had to have a negative test result from a certified lab (not a at home test), and if you tested positive you couldn't go, but we had our son hunker down and it all worked out.

The Colorado program has its own Instagram page, which was updated every 2-4 days, so we were able to follow along during the trip as well as with the student written blog posts.

But the best part of the experience, for us as parents, was greeting the young man stepping off the escalator at baggage claim on his return. In just three short weeks he not only had learned exponentially more than we thought he would about the land, resources, ecosystem challenges, sustainability, etc., but he also matured in powerful way that is almost hard to put a finger on. But we can see it in a revised worldview, much stronger focus on the areas of study he wants to pursue in college (spoiler alert: they are a blend of sustainability and business ethics), and an entirely new, first person learned, understanding of a far wider range of people, political views and personal identity issues than he had ever been exposed to in the safety bubble of his 'buddies', who all think, dress, talk, and act the same.

So from a parent's viewpoint, I couldn't recommend serious consideration of the Amigos Colorado program more enthusiastically nor genuinely.

Pros
  • World view changing
  • Immersive with a broad range of students from different backgrounds
  • Phenomenal ROI when balancing the reasonable cost against the exceptional personal learning and intellectual growth experienced
Cons
  • More frequent updates/posts on social media (for the families at home)
Default avatar
Isabell
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Ecuador: Santa Elena

Choosing to spend six weeks of my summer in Ecuador was one of the best decisions I have ever made! Over the six weeks I realized how much I love to speak Spanish and appreciate using my Spanish to listen and learn people's stories. I stayed with two different host families, giving me a chance to experience living in two very different communities. Amigos Immerse helped me to gain more independence and self confidence after two years of being constrained by COVID.

Living with another family for an extended amount of time allowed me to experience life with my host families, from celebrating family milestones, the small activities of watching telenovelas after dinner, to cooking dinner with the family. I spent a lot of my time sitting in the kitchen helping my host mom cook or just talking to my host siblings about their days. In the evening we would often play cards, something everyone in the family from the five year-old nephew to my host mom loved. It was a great time for me to share games I enjoyed playing and they taught me games they enjoyed, and of course, UNO was a big hit.

Another big part of what I did was running Talleres, camps for the kids in my community, five days per week. We taught the kids about ecology, recycling, creative expression, and leadership. While planning our lessons we tried to incorporate games to make it fun. It really taught me to think on my feet and be flexible to adjust the activity to support the kids energy on a specific day.

AMIGOS offered such an amazing opportunity to be able to have new in depth experiences, in Spanish to learn from others, while at the same time learning so much about yourself. AMIGOS cares so deeply about all of their volunteers and over the past 60 years has learned how to best support teens while at the same time letting them have their own experience that is unique and special to every person who participates.

If you are thinking about participating in an AMIGOS immerse program I would strongly encourage you to do it, you won’t regret your decision.

Pros
  • You learn so much about the communities you are living in
  • You get to practice your Spanish in a way very different then learning in the classroom
  • Trying new and delicious food!
Default avatar
Lois
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Thank you Amigos!

I had a great time on the Colorado trip connecting with different people and learning about creative solutions people are implementing across the US to combat climate change. The program prompted me to consider studying environmental science in the future! We also had fun exploring Colorado: hiking, going to farmer's markets, river rafting, and experiencing a college campus (Western Colorado University). The group got really close over the course of the 3 weeks and made being far from home much more bearable. I'd recommend this program to anyone who wants to learn more about how to help the environment and who likes trying new things!

Pros
  • Meeting new people with different ideas and backgrounds.
  • Beautiful hikes and sights!
  • Learning about climate change and ways to help.
Default avatar
Lily
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

If you're thinking about it, do it!

My six weeks in Ecuador were unforgettable. From bonding with the group during briefing and debriefing to creating memories with my host family and community, I formed amazing connections that will last me a lifetime.

In the community I stayed in, my partner and I got to paint two murals alongside community members: one about reproductive and sexual rights and another about the importance of recycling. Throughout the process, I learned new skills, built my Spanish vocabulary, and became a much more confident leader. The best part is that the community members were the ones teaching and supporting me, not an Amigos staff member. This aspect makes Amigos programs so impactful: they provide the perfect amount of guided independence, which means they trust participants and host communities to learn the most from each other. My supervisor was there if I needed him, but he was in no way overbearing, which gave me the space to make the most of my experience in a safe way.

Aside from the murals, my partner and I also led workshops four days a week for the kids in the community. We focused on a handful of themes: Ecology and The Environment; Creative Expression; Leadership and Civic Participation; Nutrition and Food Safety; The Rights of Children and Adolescents; and Community and Personal Health. The kids brought the most amazing, fun energy to the workshops, which made each day a new adventure. This time was also perfect for practicing Spanish because I really had to think on the spot when leading the workshops. If you go, I recommend making a Wall of Work to display the activities the kids do during the workshop -- it's cool to look back on in the end.

When not leading workshops or painting murals, I would spend time playing cards with my host family, learning about their lives, learning to cook, and sometimes hiking. Participants can also get permission to go on excursions with their host families.

If you are thinking about doing Amigos, do it! You will leave the experience with a new appreciation for the world, a stronger grasp of the Spanish language, and long-lasting connections.

Pros
  • Amigos creates the perfect amount of independence
  • It's the perfect experience for language and cultural immersion
  • To an extent, you can tailor the program to align with your passions and interests.

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

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