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Vamos muchá! Our First Assignment

Queridxs Dragones,

We hope your course-prep is going smoothly. In less than a month, we begin our adventure together in Guatemala ¡Qué emoción! To be better prepared for the summer, we, your instructors, have put together a few tasks for you to complete before we begin our course. The idea of this assignment is to get us actively thinking about program themes and about each other. Try not to think of it as just “pre-course homework,” but as an early opportunity to make the most of our time together. If everyone puts some thought into these themes, it will set a positive tone of learning and engagement for the entire course.

#1: Post an introduction on the Yak Board.

This is the most important part! Now that we, the instructors, have written a little bit about ourselves, we want to hear from you all. Tell us a bit about yourself. Here are some guiding questions: Who are you? What do you care about? What excites you? What, if anything, do you know or have experienced about Guatemala or Central America? What most excites you about the program?

Please include a photo if you want. We look forward to reading your introductions!

Assignment #2: Talk with one of your instructors on the phone!

Please be on the lookout for emails from your instructors to arrange a time to chat with you over the coming weeks. We are excited to hear your voices, get to know each other a little better, and give each of you a space to voice questions and concerns before we get started.

Assignment #3: Dive into Course Themes!

As students, US citizens, and media consumers, we are often told a generalized version of Central America and its history. Countries are grouped, diverse cultures are blended into one, and people are turned into mere statistics. This narrative is simpler, more convenient, and easier to digest. But it’s also incomplete.

During our four weeks together, we want to break apart from this single story. We envision a program that highlights the diversity of Guatemala’s experiences, people, customs, and cultures. From the jungles of Peten to the beaches of Livingston, we will meet and learn alongside people from all walks of life. Ex-combatants of the civil war,  Afro-Guatemalans from the Caribbean coast, Maya Achi people on Alta and Baja Verapáz will all teach us about the incredible richness of cultures and peoples in a country no bigger than the state of Tennessee.

Before the program starts, we encourage you to look for a more diverse understanding of Guatemalan and Latin-American culture. Read from various authors (English and Spanish), listen to Spanish music, and dance to Latin rhythms. Here are some resources and articles to get you started.

  • We also encourage you to watch the documentary “When the Mountains Tremble.” It’s a bit heavy but gives a good overview of Guatemala’s long civil war, the repercussions of which are still felt in some of the communities we will visit and the country as a whole.
  • Practicing your Spanish with Radioambulante podcast on NPR. It’s a Spanish language podcast  that “cuenta crónicas latinoamericanas en audio, celebrando la diversidad y complejidad de la región”.  You can find written transcripts as well to follow along on their website! There are many episodes!

Thanks for reading and digging into this first assignment. We look forward to speaking with all of you soon!


Mónica, Jochen, y Teto