Social Change in Central America: Exploring Peace, Justice, and Community Engagement
Fall Semester: late-August through mid-December
Spring Semester: late-January through mid-May
This multi-country semester study abroad program, defined by an experiential methodology and unique approach to community engagement, offers students a provocative and inspiring experience that develops Spanish language skills while immersing participants in the lives of host families, urban and rural communities, and grassroots organizations dedicated to working on issues related to conflict, U.S. foreign policy, gender, and economic and social justice.
Situated at the very center of the Americas, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua are home to more than 30 Indigenous and ethnic communities with a cultural heritage rich in creativity, resistance, and political advocacy. Students are provided with unique opportunities in this region, which is shaped by a legacy of colonization, U.S. intervention, dictatorships, revolutions, and grassroots movements dedicated to social change. Students’ experiences in the region will challenge them to analyze, reflect, and deepen understanding of our world.
<Due to the recent US State Department Travel Warning, the previous time/travel in El Salvador has been changed to Costa Rica for the 2013-14 academic year.>
The richness and diversity of Central America, compared and contrasted by the history, culture, and anti-oppression struggles of the people of Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua
Indigenous cosmovisions, the role of religion in social change, legacies of armed struggles, community organizing and engagement, and the impact of globalization and immigration
Diverse approaches to economic, environmental, and social justice
Students will take the following four courses (each worth 4 semester credits):
Taught in Guatemala: one-on-one Spanish language course, beginning-advanced
Taught in Costa Rica: Latin America Liberation Theologies (Religion 366)
Taught in Nicaragua: Citizen Participation within a Globalized Economy: A Nicaragua Case Study (Political Science 310)*
Taught in Nicaragua: Cultural Conflict and Change in Latin America: The Central America Context (History/Women’s Studies 355)*
Students will meet and speak with liberation theologians and practitioners, women’s collectives and representatives of feminist movements, government officials, political party representatives, former guerrilla leaders, a Mayan priestess, Indigenous leaders, and youth groups.
The program includes field trips within each country, for example:
In Guatemala: a visit to Chichicastenango to experience Central America’s largest outdoor artisan market, participate in a Mayan-Catholic mass, and a women’s sewing cooperative; a week-long stay in an Indigenous rural community where students will live with families, learn about the legacy of war, engage in traditional cooking classes, bathe in hot baths, and visit a glass factory; several days in the city of Antigua, a world heritage site known for its colonial architecture.
In Costa Rica: explore the current role of churches and liberation theology, particularly through accompaniment and work with immigrants; be exposed to feminist theologies of liberation; learn about ecotheology first hand and how it relates to Latin American liberation theologies, live with host families in San José, and engage in regional travel to both urban and rural areas.
In Nicaragua: a visit to the protected area of Miraflor in the coffee and tobacco region of Esteli to learn about rural development initiatives and conservation; a day trip to Granada, one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas, as well as the city of Masaya, a capital of Nicaraguan folklore.
Housing and Homestays
In Guatemala, students spend three weeks with an urban family in the western highland city of Quetzaltenango and one week in a homestay with an Indigenous Mayan family. In Costa Rica students will live with local families in San José, and in Nicaragua students initially live in our study center and then spend four weeks with a local family in Managua. There will also be a three-night rural homestay.
Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors at any college or university. One previous course in Spanish (or its equivalent) is required.
Applications are accepted on a rolling admissions basis. Deadlines are October 15 (spring term) and April 1 (fall term). Enrollment is limited; early application is encouraged to ensure a place in the program.