By: Cecilia Vasquez, Director AFS Guatemala
In April 2023, ISFODOSU, the Pedagogical University of the Dominican Republic, collaborated with AFS to send a group of 10 pre-service teachers and a faculty member on a transformative 12-day study tour to Guatemala.
This exceptional program, a joint effort between AFS offices in Santo Domingo and Guatemala, offered a multifaceted experience that left a lasting impact on the participating students and provided valuable learning opportunities for educators.
The journey began with the careful selection of students and faculty members by the University, all of whom were eager to embrace the challenge of an intercultural experience in a seemingly familiar country.
“Being with a host family was the best way to face this new experience. With their support, I was able to experience the differences in language (yes! there are many words that we say differently), food, traditions, and culture. I will miss my host family when I go home” A. Santo
To assess their cultural competence development, the group underwent the Intercultural Development Inventory Assessment (IDI). This assessment tool provides deep insights into how individuals and groups perceive and respond to cultural differences, evaluating both mindset and skillset.
As any AFS program, the group went through the AFS Global Up Educators, a virtual learning program of 20 modules and 4 Guided Reflection Sessions held by AFS Qualified Facilitators.
“The program in Guatemala challenged me as a future teacher. I was able to see the relevance of how to relate the content of what we are teaching to a real-life situation. I can’t wait to be a certified teacher and apply this in my everyday teaching” G. Perez
Upon arrival in Guatemala City, following a 4-hour flight, AFS volunteers guided them to Antigua, Guatemala, where a two-day cultural induction unfolded. During this time, students engaged in cultural visits, reflection sessions, lectures, and some leisure activities, forging meaningful connections with local AFS volunteers.
The heart of the program revolved around living with volunteer host families and participating in a local school for two weeks. Within the school environment, students shadowed certified teachers, exchanged insights about their respective educational systems, and even had the opportunity to teach classes to Guatemalan students.
“I enjoyed being at a school that values innovation in a school, they have a whole department dedicated to innovative teaching methods, teaching approaches to improve education quality” N. Sánchez
To wrap the program up, the group had a workshop delivered by a Guatemalan University: Universidad del Istmo on covering the critical topic of “Special Needs in the Classroom”.
Upon their return home, the group underwent a post-IDI Assessment, revealing an impressive overall group growth of 8.18 points. These results are consistent with findings from many short-term study-away programs. Typically, IDI quantitative growth falls within the range of 8.00 to 14.00 points, with anything over 7 points considered statistically significant.
After such a successful program, the Pedagogical University decided to send a second group this past August to Costa Rica, with the same program elements and similar results. The countries that form the Latin American Alliance for Intercultural Education, ALEI, are now open to host and organize faculty-led programs in 15 different countries.
Interested in designing your own custom program? Contact [email protected]
“Thank you AFS for putting this life-changing experience program together, the support of the volunteers and staff made all the difference!” E.Bautista