Semester in Central America

Central America is a land of immense environmental and cultural diversity. Lush tropical rainforests, towering volcanoes, steep-sided mountains, and extended coastlines inspire unique cultural expression. The many different Indigenous Mayan communities, the people of mixed European ancestry, the local ticos and chapines, and the expats who have made these countries their home, all invoke an atmosphere of social activism and political engagement.

From the Sierra Madre mountains of interior Guatemala, to the sea turtle havens on the coast; from the tranquility and splendor of Lago Atitlan and her surrounding volcanoes, to the breathtaking coral reefs offshore, Carpe Diem Education takes you to a region that is merging the complexities of socio-political realities with the hope of a more sustainable future.

Where We Travel

Program Details

Fall 2021 programs pending regional travel announcements, border restrictions, and risk factors for host communities. Contact us with any questions.

Length

Semester

Program dates

Fall 2021
September 15 - December 1

Spring 2022
February 16 - May 4

Group Size

2 Overseas Educators and up to 12 students

Eligibility

Our typical student is between 17-22, though we sometimes work with students slightly outside that range depending on circumstances.

College Credit & Financial Aid

Learn more about: College Credit & Financial Aid

Language Requirements

None

Cost: 

$13,500

Program tuition includes all food, accommodations, scheduled program activities, and international travel insurance for the duration of the program. International airfare and spending money are extra. International airfare estimated at $1400 - $1600.

About Our Central America Semester

A land of social, cultural, and economic intricacies, Central America provides a rich environment for in-depth exploration of how communities are engaged in common efforts to live in a more sustainable way.

Beginning in Guatemala, we’ll explore the highland regions near Antigua before diving right in to our study of sustainability.  We’ll partner with an NGO focused on green building.  We’ll learn about building sustainably and then dive in to hands on work, with full days supporting building projects.  

Next we’ll head to Quetzaltenango, to start our study of Spanish. Immersing ourselves in the local culture, we keep our activities varied through discussions with a local Mayan healer, soccer games with our Spanish teachers and locals, discussing regional history, and learning the basics of Guatemalan cooking. We connect with the land through hiking local trails and relaxing in some beautiful hot springs.

More confident in our Spanish, we now trek through rural villages, pastoral countryside, and coffee plantations, talking with locals along the way, and witnessing the agricultural practices of Mayan communities. Eventually, we descend to the crater lake of Lago Atitlan, surrounded by soaring volcanoes and home to multiple indigenous communities. Working alongside Mayan farmers, we learn about planting and harvesting coffee and participate in efforts to restore local ecosystems. How can agricultural practices coexist with, and even benefit, local ecosystems and native flora and fauna?

As we move on to Costa Rica, we immediately notice the emphasis on environmental conservation and sustainability reflected in the landscapes we see. Over one-quarter of this nation’s land is set aside as protected habitat. Once again living with homestay families, and immersing ourselves in Spanish classes, we will be improving our ability to listen to the stories of others, and to share our own. We enjoy the beauty of the natural environment through rainforest walks, waterfall hikes, learning local customs, and stretching our comfort zones by learning some salsa dancing.

Heading south, we’ll spend time at a Sustainability Education Center where we’ll continue to learn about natural building, permaculture, and farm to table cooking!  As part of the local community, we’ll participate in soccer games, language exchanges, hikes, and even chocolate making.

Finally, we’ll make our way to the coast to learn about marine conservation.  We’ll start by walking the beaches at night, searching for sea turtles who are coming ashore in order to dig nests and lay eggs. We’ll work with local volunteers in an effort to protect sea turtle nests, and perhaps even watch newly hatched turtles make their inaugural voyage to the sea!

We end by diving into the sea ourselves, in the beautiful coral ecosystems off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, earning our PADI Open Water Scuba Certification. This is a spectacular reef in the world, with crystalline warm waters and vibrant marine life. This is also a time to celebrate our experiences and revel in the beauty of the natural world.

Carpe Diem Education’s Central America semester brings you an in-depth look at indigenous culture, sustainable practices, and the relationship between land and people. Through working alongside farmers and builders, intensive Spanish study, and homestay experiences, the journey through Guatemala and Costa Rica provides us a deeper understanding of how local communities are addressing the increasing pressures of climate change and managing resources in a more sustainable way.  

Questions We'll Explore: 

  • How are communities creatively using (and re-using) resources and design methods to live more sustainably?  
  • How do permaculture and sustainable agricultural practices apply not just to farming but to everyday life?  
  • What sustainable practices and ways of living are shared or different across the varied towns, cities, and landscapes we visit?
  • How does connection to land and place influence relationships and community?  
  • How are social and environmental justice connected, and how do these relate to culture in Guatemala and Costa Rica?

Testimonials

"An amazing program!! Incredible balance between service, education (Spanish, sustainability, local history/culture), and adventure."

-Jillian,
CDE Student

"What I love about this program is how it allows you to gain deep understanding of countries that are so physically close and yet culturally distant from our own."

-Rachel,
Overseas Educator

"We spent 4 weeks doing Spanish classes and homestays and I learned more in those 4 weeks than I ever did in 3 years of high school Spanish."

-Estelle,
CDE Student

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