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Getting ready for our adventures! (PLEASE READ ASAP)

Hola hola Dragoncitos —

This is your instructor team. We can’t wait to meet you! In the meantime, we have some requests and some packing tips.

First, we’d like to ask you to post an introduction here over the next few days. Tell us a little about yourselves and what you’re most excited about for our time together! Also, please dig into the course reader, read some of the entries, and in your intro tell us about something that surprised you or piqued your curiosity, and why it did so. (If you’ve already posted your intro, go ahead and repost it with your course reader impressions.)

Second, we want to talk! You’ll be getting a phone call from one of us over the next few days to touch base and answer any questions you or your folks might have.

Third, get your packing planned! The Course Preparation Manual has a great run-down on what to pack. In the meantime, I’ve posted a summary below. The only thing you should bring that the CPM doesn’t list is a sleeping bag. If you’d like to read a great book about Guatemala before you arrive or during your stay, here are three of the best books I’ve ever read:

The Fish That Ate The Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King, by Rich Cohen

Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, by Schlesinger and Kinzer

The Guatemala Reader from Duke University Press

We’re looking forward to reading your intros, and to chatting over the next few days!

¡¡¡¡Hasta pronto!!!!

Packing list summary:


Normal clothes! We can’t emphasize enough how nice it will be to have some normal jeans, t shirts and generally clothing you’d wear back home. Although we will be doing some trekking, most of our adventure will be spent in small towns. Not everything needs to be quick dry.

Be sure to bring comfortable pants and/or a comfortable dress that covers the shoulders and reaches the knees. You will want clothing that helps you feel relaxed.

A large backpack to carry all your belongings (50-65 liters). It will also be helpful to have a small day backpack that you can use on our trek or for day-trips. Bring a rain protector for both. The rainy season has already begun!

Speaking of rain you should also bring rain gear. A lightweight poncho or a raincoat are good options.

Probiotics: Traveling abroad almost always results in stomach issues. Bring a bottle of probiotic pills with you to keep up your good gut flora. The best defense against bad bacteria is a good offense of good bacteria ready to meet them head-on when they reach your gut! It’s best to start taking probiotics a couple of weeks before the course starts. Yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and other similar foods all help build up resistance.

Gifts: There is no expectation that you bring gifts! But many students like to have something simple to give to individuals who make their course special, people like ISP mentors and homestay families. If you do bring gifts, bring around 5. Some ideas are: postcards or pictures from home/of family (you can write messages on the back), games that you enjoy, or small tokens of where you’re from (magnets, a local treat, etc.). The simpler and more personal the better.

Camera: You won’t be able to use you cell phone to take photos on the trip because we instructors keep your cell phones. So bring a camera! You can bring any kind you like. The more expensive it looks, the greater the risk that it gets stolen. That being said, you can always wrap a new, expensive camera in duct tape!

Watch: Please bring a watch so you can meet up for group activities on time! It’s best to have a watch with a simple alarm that can wake you up in the mornings.

A USB for saving photos, documents for independent study projects, yaks, etc.

A large travel towel.

Flip flops are great for hostel showers and informal settings.

Earplugs are great to have as you will hear all sorts of new noises (think roosters and bus horns RIGHT outside your window).

A journal and your favorite writing utensil. We will be doing a lot of writing and reflecting!

Something to do as a group! You will have many moments together as a group, so it’s nice to have games (like playing cards, Uno, Banana Grams) and a couple of lightweight books. (Instructors will give periodic reading assignments too so no need to bring your whole library.)

Bring musical instruments (guitars, ukuleles, etc.) if you are musically inclined and want to share!

An extra duffel bag comes in handy for forwarding your extra stuff to the final destination of our trek. We don’t carry everything we own on our backs while hiking, so having a safe place to store what you leave behind can be helpful.


You do not need a sleeping pad or a mosquito net. If they are needed they will be provided. Anything you don’t want ruined or lost shouldn’t come with you!

Kindles and any other electronic reading devices are at risk for damage and theft. A couple of lightweight books are best!

Cell phone: If you do decide to bring a phone to coordinate your travel to and from Miami, please keep in mind that we will collect all phones for the duration of the course and are not responsible for loss or damage. We will address this topic in more detail soon, but please be prepared to disconnect from your phone for the duration of our time together. You will have intermittent access (at least once a week) to internet and call centers to contact home during the program. There will be plenty of ways to stay in touch with home, and the Yak board will be our main source of communication with loved ones.

Inappropriate clothing: Thin leggings as pants, clothing that is skin tight, revealing, more than a few inches above the knee, sporting inappropriate words, excessively torn, etc. should be left at home. Instructors will let you know if you’re wearing something inappropriate.

Things you can get in-country: Clothing (traditional, American, and souvenir), knock-off footwear, books in Spanish and English, toiletries (non-natural), notebooks and writing utensils, souvenirs, among many other things. Feminine hygiene products (pads/tampons) are available in-country if needed. It’s pretty easy to cover your basics in-country. Just remember to bring your staple items and technical gear from home.