CGE Central America: No Program Compares. Past Review

By (Philosophy., Trinity University) for

CGEE: Social Change in Central America: Exploring Peace, Justice, and Community Engagement

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
This is not an overstatement: If I could trace my current life, its tragectory, my passions, and my future back to one singular experience, it would undeniably be this semester abroad. CGE helped me harnass my passions and narrow my professional focus towards a career that is meaningful and fits me well. Since my abroad experience, I have returned to Central America four times to visit the friends and family I made on through my CGE semester. I also moved to Nicaragua for a year to work with a local non-profit focused on college access and persistence. So, without overstating, this program helped shape who I am, what I do, and why I do it.

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: Proyecto Linguistico Quetzaltenango
How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I personally felt that the caseload was very manageable, but that shouldn't be mistaken for "easy." The great part about this program is that you're focused on one class at a time -- a very non-traditional approach to college education. This allowed me to narrow my studies and really pull out important information and class material. It is because of this style that I can still to this day remember random facts and historical points from this semester - something I cannot say I am capable of doing with any other college course.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Each semester is assigned a Program Coordinator and intern who stay with the group throughout the semester. Additionally, CGE has "in country" advisors who are local, native residents of each of the three countries. This combination provides a well secured and consistent support network that is certainly unparalleled.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Students have a home stay while in Guatemala and Nicaragua. In El Salvador, the students live in a communal house and share 1-2 roommates. Each of these living experiences was vastly different, but all very fun and exciting. The home stay in Guatemala is bit less personal due to the relative short stay. I was fortunate enough to be matched with an absolutely amazing host family in Nicaragua. Leaving them at the end of my program was probably the most emotional time for me during my semester. Four years later, I am still very close to them and visit them when I can. Logistically speaking, the families are very accomodating. These families are lower income, so you will need to provide your own personal belongings. Most all families have basic essentials like sheets, pillows, and toiletries.

* Food:

I love food, so I'm not the best barometer here. It was great becoming familiar with the local cuisine. The program itself was always very sensitive to the groups' dietary restrictions and needs.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Repetition Alert! Undoubtedly the best part of this program! AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING. Too many to list here! And, plus, I don't want to give them all away.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Xela, Guatemala: 5 stars San Salvador, El Salvador: 3 stars Managua, Nicaragua: 4 stars

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Practically nothing. I would budget for around $100-$150 per month on food and entertainment. Most other expenses are included in the program fees.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? None that I can think of


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
Language acquisition improvement?

I entered this program with basic to intermediate Spanish skills and left with near conversational fluency. The intensive Spanish course mentioned above provided me and my class with a solid foundation from which to build for the rest of the semester. The level of language interaction is really up to the student as there are limitless opportunities to practice either with staff or local residents.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Everything
* What could be improved?
  • Nothing
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This program is not an easy one. If you are looking to party and take a semester off, look elsewhere. If you are willing to challenge yourself, immerse yourself into a fascinating and endearing culture, then this is the program for you. If you are a student who is intellectually and culturally curious, who has a passion for social justice and equality, then look no further than CGE's program in Central America. (And don't worry, we did plenty of going out and 3 a.m. salsa dance parties, so get ready for that, too!).