Have you ever wondered what it would be like to intern abroad in Guatemala? We caught up with Alex from our local team in Guatemala to give you an insight into what to expect when interning abroad…
- What do you love about living in Guatemala?
- What type of person is best suited to interning abroad in Guatemala?
- What does a typical day look like for someone volunteering in Guatemala?
- What is the food and accommodation like for interns in Guatemala?
- What do you love about working with international interns?
- How can international interns have an impact in the community?
- What advice would you give to interns who are concerned about the language barrier?
- What are the cultural customs unique to Guatemala that interns should be aware of?
- How can interns spend their weekends?
- What advice would you give to someone who is considering an internship in Guatemala?
Question 1 - What do you love about living in Guatemala?
There are several things that I really like about Guatemala but the warmth of the people is something very valuable. People always offer a nice smile even when they don’t know me which is very comforting. The views are really stunning, especially on top of a volcano or a mountain. I like hiking and we have plenty of options and opportunities to do it. The food is delicious and tasty - there are always new options to explore in Guatemala and there are many drinks made of fruits. The weather here is great, as temperatures are nice most of the time. Although it can rain from May till October, the mornings during this time are usually clear. The culture is surprising, colorful, and diverse. Mayan culture is very interesting and important, there are many things to learn about the country, its people, and history.
Question 2 - What type of person is best suited to interning abroad in Guatemala?
People who are interested in enjoying a unique experience, that’s mixed with personal growth, will enjoy interning in Guatemala. Students and young professionals who wish to add experience and knowledge to their CV can choose from internships in Teaching English / Education, Environmental Conservation, Special Needs / Childcare, Agriculture, Physiotherapy, Health & Medical, Microfinance and Hospitality & Tourism. Guatemalan internships provide an enriching experience, where you can meet new people, work in a different context and culture, and learn how to adapt to different challenges (that you wouldn’t expect to tackle in your home country).
Question 3 - What does a typical day look like for someone volunteering in Guatemala?
Normally activities at most placements start at 8:00 am, so interns eat breakfast with their host family, then walk to their internship placement. Interns can expect to do a range of activities during the day. As you’re working alongside local staff and professionals, interns practice Spanish language skills, shadow, observe, collaborate, assist, and create relationships with the team that they’re working alongside. It’s important to come prepared with clear goals for your internship, which is something Intern Abroad HQ are able to assist with. This always makes it easier to adapt to all aspects of the internship experience.
Question 4 - What is the food and accommodation like for interns in Guatemala?
Food is incredible in Guatemala! It ranges from the traditional options, that you can expect to encounter in your home-stay, to more international cuisine that’s available throughout many towns and cities. In Antigua, it’s possible to find some really delicious places to dine (this is popular during weekends). If you’re a real foodie, you can also take chocolate-making classes there or check out a coffee-making tour. The markets are always full of fresh fruits and vegetables, where you may also find different kind of exotic fruits that are unique in Central America. While you shouldn’t expect delicatessen cuisine in your home-stay, you’ll have tasty and delicious meals made from fresh ingredients. Corn, black beans, rice, vegetables, eggs, “tortillas”, and chicken are all staples of a typical Guatemalan diet. People with specific dietary requirements can be catered for, as long as we’re made aware of what the needs are in advance, so that we can provide guidance. Regarding accommodation, interns have a rewarding experience, living and sharing a home-stay with a Guatemalan host family (in the vicinity of where you will be working). All interns have a private bedroom and shared bathroom.
Question 5 - What do you love about working with international interns?
It is really nice to meet people from different parts of the world. I feel that I am learning something different with each new person. We feel happy to assist placing interns with different organizations and projects, because through this way we are contributing little by little with the development of these projects and communities. The host families that we work with, who accommodate interns, take genuine care and pride in sharing their home to provide hospitality and insight into Guatemalan life and culture. They often comment that, as hosts, it’s a way for them and their families to get to know the world better through cultural exchange.
Question 6 - How can international interns have an impact in the community?
It’s most important to come to Guatemala with an open mind, and to leave with a fresh perspective. Interns provide a big support to the projects they spend time at, because they bring diverse knowledge and experience, while learning something new from the team they assist. In Guatemala, interns are placed according to a number of objectives which enable them to have a meaningful impact. Whether the intern is assisting to increase access to education, promote health and wellbeing, support community development, or helping to conserve the environment and wildlife, we identify what’s important to our community and where the need for help is. We also consider the interns profile/resume, in order to best utilize their skillset and ensure that they have an internship experience that allows them to put their abilities and classroom learning into practice. Often, interns are able to share their experience by developing workshops or training, which can greatly help to improve knowledge and resilience within the local community.
Question 7 - What advice would you give to interns who don’t speak Spanish and are concerned about the language barrier?
Some of the internship placements that we offer to require interns to speak intermediate Spanish. This is important, due to the nature of the tasks involved, to ensure good engagement and enjoyment of the experience. For example, Physiotherapy, Health & Medical, and Microfinance internships all have a Spanish language requirement. However, we also have internship placements that are suitable for a beginner/basic level of Spanish. These include Tourism & Hospitality, Agriculture, Special Needs/Childcare, Environmental Conservation, and Teaching English/Education. Regardless of which internship field you choose, it’s important to have a good attitude and take the initiative to start conversations and to interact with people. We strongly encourage everyone who is not yet fluent in Spanish to take Spanish language lessons during their internship. The lessons are designed to enhance program engagement, confidence, and cultural integration.
Question 8 - What are the cultural customs unique to Guatemala that interns should be aware of?
Guatemala is a conservative country but also a very polite one. A lot of the communication can be very indirect, but with the best interest at heart. People tend to be very friendly and curious of foreigners. There are many little cultural norms to list that make Guatemala different, but most participants adapt to them very quickly.
Question 9 - How can interns spend their weekends while being based around Antigua? and what are the “must do’s in Guatemala?”
It is easy to travel and to go to the popular touristy places in the country or close to Antigua. Interns only need to organize or book their trip and then enjoy the excursions or activities. There are several companies and tour operators that offer safe and fun trips for tourists - budgets and prices will depend on the activities or trips. There are diverse activities, such as hiking volcanoes, city tours, coffee farm tours, visiting archaeological sites, visiting mayan communities in the edge of a beautiful lake, shopping for handicrafts, and much more. The “must do” activities might include:
- Visiting the biggest Mayan archeological site in Guatemala, Tikal.
- Hiking one of the many volcanoes around Guatemala, some of them are active!
- Taking a dip in Georgina’s volcanic hot springs.
- Shopping in the Chichicastenango open air market.
- Exploring the Mayan towns around the beautiful lake Atitlan.
- Strolling through the historic town of Antigua, Guatemala.
Question 10 - What advice would you give to interns who are traveling alone for the first-time and are considering an internship in Guatemala?
Do it! This will be a great opportunity for personal growth, travel, and to meet many new people in a completely different setting from home. We believe that good support for interns that are coming to Guatemala is crucial, which is why we provide all the elements necessary for participants to have a fun and rewarding time at their placement. If you’re considering an internship in Guatemala, you can also check out Intern Abroad HQ’s guide on “How to Intern Abroad”, as well as more comprehensive information on “How to Prepare, Plan and Budget”. It can be challenging to take the first step, but once that decision has been taken the experience only gets better and better.
Ready to make it happen?
Internship placements in Guatemala are based in and around Santa Lucia Milpas Altas, just 15 minutes from Antigua. Start dates are offered on the first and third Monday of every month.
Apply online first. The application process is non-obligatory and free!
After applying, we’ll email you the details on how to confirm your internship placement and answer any questions.
To confirm, you’ll register online after your application has been accepted. This means taking care of the US$299 Registration Fee, which enables us to provide services and pre-departure support. Guatemala internship fees can be reviewed online.
Once you’re registered, the adventure begins! Your Internships Manager will support you with planning an internship abroad in Guatemala.