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Guatemala Immersion

Guatemala Immersion

Dates: May 21-30, 2019

Cost: $1,800 – Plus cost of passport (if participant does not have one), immunizations, and spending money for travel/souvenirs.


This immersion is open to all Notre Dame Students, alumni and staff.  The Guatemala Immersion will have 3-4 focus areas: health care, performing arts, environmental biology and education/athletics. For this reason, we are actively seeking students who are interested and skilled in these particular areas. Most of all, we are seeking students with a heart for service.

Immersion Site:

Guatemala is a beautiful country with a rich culture and breathtaking scenery. The indigenous people of the country still practice ancient forms of fabric weaving and celebrate the continued existence of 21 different cultural groups each with its own Mayan language. But Guatemala also faces some very significant problems.

More than 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and the extent of poverty is even more severe among the rural and indigenous populations. According to the World Bank, 90 percent of the indigenous population in Guatemala lives in poverty.

Education is a challenge in Guatemala. Approximately 30 percent of the population is considered illiterate and children only attend an average of 4 years of school. There are 2 million children in Guatemala who do not attend school at all.  The majority of these children are indigenous girls living in rural areas.

Our specific destination is a small town named San Juan La Laguna which sits on the shore of breathtaking Atitlan Lake. We will also have the opportunity to visit other cities on the way to and from San Juan, including Panajachel and the former capital of Guatemala, Antigua. It is possible that we may also have the opportunity to visit the ancient ruins of Iximche or climb the Pacaya Volcano. Although Atitlan Lake is a popular tourist destination, San Juan has managed to hold on to its small town feel and community values. While in San Juan, we will partner with a Christian elementary school, Nuevo Amanecer, and the neighborhood church, San Juan Bautista.

Partner Organization:

We are traveling to Guatemala with the assistance of Covenant Merge Ministries. Merge Ministries has been in existence for over a decade and they have assisted thousands of people from the United States in their service travel to Latin America. They provide facilitators, translators, food preparation, tools, pre-trip planning and everything else we need for a good immersion experience.


This year, our Guatemala Immersion will focus on three or four areas: health care, performing arts, environmental biology and education/athletics.

We are actively recruiting nursing majors to participate in this immersion so that we can engage in a variety of experiences focusing on health care in a developing country. We have contact with local health professionals in San Juan and they have offered to host our students at the public health clinic.  There will be opportunities to work directly with people and learn about their health care needs.

We are also recruiting members of the Performing Arts programs at NDC for this immersion.  There will be opportunities to perform music as well as learning about the musical traditions of Guatemala. Time will also be spent teaching music classes in the local school.

We are recruiting students who have interest in biology and environmental science. An new optional 3 credit course is in development that is expected to offer upper division credit for biology and environmental science majors participating in the Immersion. Students enrolled in the course (anticipated spring 2019) hybrid course will explore the ecology of the Lake Atitlan region including significant plants and animals, their interactions with the environment, and human impacts. Students will also share their ecology and environmental science knowledge by teaching local elementary and secondary students using hands-on activities and demonstrations.

Students who are not associated with the areas above are also welcome on the immersion. Many opportunities are available to teach in the local school subjects ranging from art to sexual education to athletics. Service activities will be planned based on the unique makeup of the group.

During the week, all immersion participants will learn about the rich culture and history of Guatemala by visiting the local school Nuevo Amanecer, neighborhood agencies, government officials, weaver cooperatives, and coffee farmers.


We will be staying in three very modest and inexpensive hotels during our time in Guatemala. Often, these hotels have shared bathrooms and very basic rooms. An American style breakfast will be served in the morning; sandwiches, vegetables, and other items will be provided for lunch; and an authentic Guatemalan dinner will be cooked every evening by a local cook.

Please visit the Application Information page to
APPLY for the Guatemala Immersion