Amigos de las Americas

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, bond with their host family, 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.

Founded
1965
Headquarters

1800 West Loop South
Suite 1325
Houston, TX 77027
United States

Reviews

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Gillian
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I participated in the Cuenca Gap semester from January-June 2019, and it was truly an amazing and transformative experience. I think the Amigos program did a great job of helping participants settle into their lives in Cuenca, by spending the first week in a hostel with fellow participants while getting used to the city, and then by spending the first month in intensive Spanish classes to prepare participants for their placements. My host family was incredibly loving and supportive, and I really felt like I became a part of their family and vice versa. I felt supported by Amigos staff in Cuenca, but not in an overly-stifling way. Every 2 weeks, we had check-ins with supervisors, just to make sure everything was going well, but they were always available if we needed them for anything. We also went on trips to different parts of Ecuador every month, including to the beach and to other cities, which was really amazing as well. All in all, I loved my time with Amigos and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a gap program that provides structure but is not overbearing. I think my favorite part was that supervisors really treated us like adults, and we were pretty much living independent lives in Cuenca while knowing that there was support available if we needed it.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
The one part of the Amigos program that I wasn't overly crazy about was coming in in the spring semester. I loved that there was the option to only go for a semester, but at the same time, it was weird coming in halfway through other people's program, when they had already formed bonds and were well-established in the city. I don't know that the year-long program would have been right for me, but I think knowing what I know now, I would switch my semesters and participate in the fall instead of the spring.
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Maggie
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My gap semester with Amigos was an incredible and formative experience. I think about Cuenca, my dear host family, and the lessons I learned there almost daily. Amigos did an excellent job finding a loving host family for me—they were wonderful and I hope to visit them someday. Although I did not imagine myself with the internship I had (I volunteered at a preschool in the city center), I now realize it taught powerful lessons in patience and self-advocacy. I also came to understand the great privilege it was to have any sort of job in a Latin American city. Most of my coworkers had been through extensive schooling and were in charge of these giant groups of kids day after day for years. I could get up and leave whenever I wanted!

The language classes were very thorough and streamlined (they don’t waste time teaching vocabulary or grammar tenses you will never need to know). The highly structured format of the language school field trips and monthly Amigos excursions are perfect for someone who has never traveled solo in a different language before. As someone who had previously done this, there were times when I felt we were being babysat. However, I came to appreciate the safety, included transportation, and insider access we had as a group.

I took advantage of the independent travel opportunities we had during the semester—and these trips were some of the highlights of my time in the country. It was during these smaller group trips that I really learned about myself and how I function in groups. All the while, we had the insured support of our supervisors who were just a few hours away (another thing I took for granted but now appreciate, looking back on all of the things that could have gone wrong).

The supervisors I had were great people with a plethora of knowledge and well-seasoned opinions of Cuenca. Though I did not require as much support as some of the other participants, I am again glad they had my back just in case.

Overall I recommend this program to open-minded, inexperienced travelers. While young adults from all walks of life can benefit from some way in this program, the open-minded, inexperienced travelers in my cohort enjoyed the program the most.

You’ll gain language skills, intercultural competency, and friends from all over the world (Ecuador, the US, and Europe!) Best of luck!

What was your funniest moment?
I lived with a family of five: two parents, three kids. The youngest of the kids (five years old) was the goofiest and chubbiest boy I have ever met. There were too many funny “Gabo moments” to just pick one. Some of my favorite include him barging into my room to read me stories early in the morning and watching action movies like Jurassic Park together.
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Sophia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Beat trip ever. I made new friends, experiencing culture, and grew my Spanish. I now have more friends across the US. I talk to my friends often, and I can’t wait to see them again. I worked with community members to grow my Spanish, develop a mural, and I got out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t used to being away from home for an extended period of time, but it felt so great to be so independent. I also got to know my host mom really well. We talked a lot and she became family to me. I can’t wait to go back. I would recommend this trip to anyone willing to take a chance and go on a life changing adventure!

What would you improve about this program?
Less lessons about the program goals. There was an excess amount of briefing. I feel like less lessons about the meaning and importance of Amigos would cause the participants to hold on to more key facts.
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Meghan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

AMIGOS provides a unique opportunity to step entirely into another culture while being supported in all matters related to health and safety. In high school, I spent 8 weeks living with a host family and working with my AMIGOS partner and local youth on a service project. Since then, I have traveled to 20+ countries and I have always struggled to find the same level of authentic immersion that AMIGOS provided me. The Azuero project provided me with a lot of insight into how environmental issues are addressed in Panama and lots of Spanish practice. I can't recommend this program enough!

Default avatar
madeline
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

During the first half of my trip, I lived in a tiny community of 20 people called Macho Mora (mora=blackberry or “berry” for short). Macho Mora is located next to the tallest mountain in Costa Rica so it has amazing views of the valley, waterfalls, colorful sunsets. I lived with a host family with one ten year old girl and one sixteen year old boy. Additionally, my two Amigos partners lived in the same community, and we all worked on the same project. Our project was to paint an entire community center inside and out. With community input, we selected a bright blue color for the walls and red for the columns, and we also designed a mural that had important symbols of our community such as trout, waterfalls, and flowers. Finally, we added our own handprints as well as the handprints of the past volunteers in Macho Mora to illustrate the collaborative effort in our project that will hopefully benefit the entire Macho Mora community for years to come.

For the second part of the trip, my partners and I, as well as other Amigos volunteers and Costa Rican youth, traveled to Marino Ballena National Park located on the southern Pacific side of Costa Rica. If you look up Marino Ballena on Google Maps, you’ll see that it’s in the shape of a whale tail which is where the park got its name (ballena = whale). We spent our time in Marino Ballena cleaning and repairing the visitor trail.. In our free time, we would play volleyball, slip ‘n slide in the rain, swim in the ocean, and dance to Spanish reggaetón.

Over the course of my trip, I learned to be flexible, collaborative, and confident in my Spanish. I love having so many connections with people not only from all over the United States, but also from Costa Rica. I will never forget my experience because it was probably the best summer of my life. Thank you, AMIGOS!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I wish I had gone for more than 4 weeks because I the last thing I wanted to do was go home.

Programs

Displaying 10 - 13 of 13

Alumni Interviews

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

Finley Davis

Finley is a student at the University of Southern California studying Political Science and Journalism with a minor in Spanish. After graduating high school, she lived in Ecuador before finally returning to LA where she now lives with her fish.

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!

US visitors, meet us in person!

  1. Tuesday 18 February
    Studio City, CA Gap Year Fair
    Harvard-Westlake School
    Fair:
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    Presentation:
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM
  2. Wednesday 19 February
    El Segundo, CA Gap Year Fair
    Vistamar School
    Fair:
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    Presentation:
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM
  3. Thursday 20 February
    La Jolla, CA Gap Year Fair
    La Jolla High School
    Fair:
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    Presentation:
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM

Professional Associations

Gap Year Association Logo
USA Gap Year Fairs Logo