Tourist : Spring Semester in Guatemala

Student Travel Abroad Trip to Tecpán, Guatemala

The Purpose Of The Trip

I went to Guatemala for a spring semester study abroad trip in my sophomore year of college. Outside of a high school graduation trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I had never been outside of the states. The all-inclusive trip wasn’t pricey (hello, all college students) at all and although we were the first group to go from my school, I’d say it was an infinitely rewarding trip.

For a Social Work major, studying somewhere outside of the country was a requirement, but I jumped at the chance to go! Community service in another country that has people that are nothing like mine? Sign me up.

Our Time There

Our objective was to work with a local school in Tecpan, Guatemala. We were to develop and execute an action plan to leave the school better off than we had found it. There were two translators (one for English to Spanish, one for Spanish to Kaqchikel) with our class-sized group so it was slow going at first. Once we got up and running though, it was great. Our team taught a couple of classes, went over health and safety with the students, and helped to clear the grounds and repaint the building.

The children loved having visitors, and you could often times tell they had never before seen people that looked like us. They loved to listen to the ways we talked, and laugh at the ways we did little things. The locals taught us about their wonderful history and showed us how to make a few things; we received a lot of heartfelt handmade gifts, too.

I rode my first zip-line in Guatemala, which is still the scariest one to date! We were able to bus ride into the major cities and check out the churches and local dealings in between community service times. We met with the Mayor, who threw us an appreciation party towards the end of the trip. There was time for learning and reflection, entertainment, community service, and a tiny bit of alone time. I have always been a travel junkie but the study abroad trip to Guatemala really sealed the deal.

Takeaways

It rained every day around 3 pm just like clockwork, and more than half the time there was no hot water (and since we were living within a hillside the water was colder than cold) but this trip was the one that awakened my traveling spirit. I have jumped at every opportunity to up and go since I returned to the states.

The people that I met taught me humility and resourcefulness. Having the opportunity to travel and go see how someone else lives is truly an incredible experience.

Corn and more corn (🌽). The Guatemalans used corn for as many things as they could. It was used in textiles, eating, hot drinks (atole de elote), exfoliants, all sorts of things. Some locals pointed out the significance of the four colors corn comes in, and how that matches up with the four colors/races people come in. Four major seasons also had a correlation to the corn as well. It’s interesting to hear how many connections can be made in so many different directions, isn’t it?

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