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Program Description:


Central America 2017 Banner
Social Change in Central America: Exploring Peace, Justice, and Community Engagement

Explore the life and culture of the peoples of Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Improve your Spanish language skills while living with families in the Guatemalan highlands (5 weeks). Study the role of the church within the situation of political oppression and social injustice in Costa Rica (4 weeks). In Nicaragua, learn about the historical context of conflict and change through the eyes of Central American women and men, and examine citizen participation in policy formulation in a globalized economy (6 weeks). Learn with and from grassroots community organizations dedicated to work on issues related to conflict, foreign policy, gender, and economic and social justice.  The unique histories and lives of the people not only inspire, but also challenge students to think about their role as agents of change.

The Social Change in Central America program is open to everyone - Augsburg students, as well as undergraduate students from any other institution.

Learn About:
  • The history, culture, and anti-oppression struggles of the people of Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua
  • Indigenous cosmovisions, the role of religion in social change, legacies of armed struggle, community organizing and engagement, and the impact of globalization and immigration
  • Diverse approaches to environmental conservation, sustainability, economic issues, and social justice
Meet With:
  • Liberation theologians and practitioners
  • Women’s collectives and representatives of feminist movements
  • Government officials, political party representatives, former guerrilla leaders
  • Mayan priestess and Indigenous leaders
  • Student and youth groups



Students will take one course while in Guatemala, one in Costa Rica, and two while in Nicaragua. Courses are taught by a mix of partner schools with which we work, as well as our own on-site faculty and staff. Your coursework is in English, there is no Spanish language prerequisite. CGEE believes in experiential education as a key factor to learning and will often bring students on cultural excursions, have guest speakers, and visit local organizations that will tie in the subject matter with real-world experiences and stories.

Flow of the Semester

In Guatemala, students will take a one-on-one Spanish language course at our partner language school. The courses range from beginning to advanced, as well as culture and literature courses for very advanced speakers. Once in Costa Rica, students will take their Latin American Liberation Theologies course. In Nicaragua, students will take two courses, Citizen Participation and Cultural Conflict and Change. Students will complete 16 credits in the semester.

See below for course syllabi and detailed descriptions of each course:



CGEE believes in learning from the community, which is why we include homestays with local families on the program. You will have multiple homestays on this program – a mix of both rural and urban homes across the three countries. Showing students different family environments is important for learning about the diversity of life and culture in Central America.

In Guatemala, students spend four weeks with an urban family in the western highland city of Quetzaltenango, also known as “Xela.” In Costa Rica, students spend a few days in a San José guest house and then live with families southeast of the city. Short homestays in the La Carpio and Longo Mai communities are also included. In Nicaragua, students initially live in CGEE’s study center and then spend four weeks with a local family in Managua. There will also be a three-night rural homestay.

We recommend the blog post “What to Expect from a Homestay Experience” from a CGEE alum to hear a student perspective.



CGEE programs are highly experiential by design. We like to get you out of the classroom and into the community! Our classes include guest speakers, trips to visit local groups, museums, businesses, and more. We also include fun excursions in the area to help you learn even more about the history, culture, and region!

All of our excursions are included in program fee, so you will always have amazing activities to join, with no hidden costs! Our Central America program takes students to a variety of excellent areas such as:


  • Tour the Central Plaza of Guatemala City and visit the city of Antigua, a world heritage site known for its Spanish colonial architecture.
  • Travel to Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in Guatemala, and learn about the legacy of war, engage in traditional cooking classes, bathe in hot baths, and visit a glassblowing factory.
  • Visit a sacred indigenous site and participate in a traditional Mayan Ceremony. Learn about the life of indigenous communities, their cosmovision, history, and the challenges indigenous people face today.


  • Weekend stay with La Carpio community—an economically disadvantaged immigrant neighborhood that receives 700 tons of waste each day—to learn about issues around environmental racism and justice
  • Three-day stay in Longo Mai—a community that has experienced different waves of refugees from Nicaragua and El Salvador—to learn about the history of the community and its environmental conservation, self-sustainability, and community organizing efforts
  • Day travel to Cartago, where students will visit the nation’s principal church, the enormous Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles


  • A visit to the protected area of Miraflor in the coffee and tobacco region of Estelí to learn about rural development initiatives and conservation
  • A day trip to Granada, one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas, as well as the city of Masaya, a capital of Nicaraguan folklore
Central America Excursions


What is Included

CGEE program costs are comprehensive and include:
  • in-country transportation
  • housing
  • all meals
  • program-related travel and excursions
  • insurance
  • tuition
  • fair wages for staff and speakers
What is not Included
  • flights to and from the program - while CGEE arranges group travel for our semester participants, you will pay out of pocket for your ticket
  • personal spending money
    • for souvenirs, occasional dining out and events, or for more extensive travel during spring/fall breaks, if you choose to do so.
  • Books and other supplies
For students at schools other than Augsburg College: The tuition rate, room and board, and fees for a semester program during the academic year 2017/18 is approximately *$18,615. You may review the cost estimate form for for an itemized breakdown: Fall Semester Cost Estimate; Spring Semester Cost Estimate.

*Please note: your school may charge other fees or tuition rates, depending on their study abroad policies, or whether Augsburg CGEE is an approved program at your school. Please talk to your school’s study abroad advisor to learn more about how costs and financial aid for study abroad work at your institution.

For Augsburg University students: The tuition for a semester program during the academic year 2017/18 is equivalent to one semester at Augsburg University. You will also receive an automatic scholarship of $1,500 for this program. All of your financial aid package, including scholarships, will apply to this program. Augsburg students will receive a personalized cost estimate form (including your financial aid award)  once you have started your application. For more questions about study abroad/away financial policies, please come to one of our information sessions.


Scholarships Available

We have a variety of scholarships and discounts available to students participating on a CGEE semester program. Each application is linked below for more information: Additionally, we offer the following discounts:
  • Returnee Discount
    • Automatic discount of 10% off a second semester program for students who combine two semester programs during their college career.  There are no forms to submit for this discount.
  • Summer Discount
    • Students who participate in a full semester program in Mexico will receive a 10% discount off a summer session (before or after the semester program). There are no forms to submit for this discount.
  • Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA) Member Discount
    • Award of $500 tuition discount. Students who qualify must submit a PJSA Membership Confirmation Form to receive the aid. This discount cannot be applied to the Social Work in a Latin American Context program.


What do our participants have to say about their time on the program?
“This program has made an incredible impact on my life. Though it was personally challenging at certain points, these challenges have made me a better person. Thanks to this program, I have been able to learn how to be a global citizen, how to create social change both as an agent and also as an ally who can stand in solidarity with those who are fighting to change their systems, and how to truly connect with people who are completely different from me.” - Shelby, Augsburg College, Sociology major

“I loved the experience, and I am so happy to have this opportunity. I learned so much about myself, others, and the world, or should I say some countries In central America. I hope to carry all the lessons I learned back home with me and share them with my family and friends. I recommend to anyone contemplating on coming or not, to come and experience the "backyard" of the United States.” - Zekia, Augsburg College, Management major/Accounting minor

“This program is LIFE CHANGING. I definitely recommend it to people looking to be challenged, pushed to their limits, while at the same time learning how to pursue social change, and have fun.  If you are looking to embark on a life changing journey, this is your program.” - Caleb, Clark University, International Relations & Global Studies major

Want to hear more?

Read our reviews at third-party website,, which awarded this program a Notable Mention on GoAbroad‘s list of Top Rated Study Abroad Programs of 2016!
More visual? Check out CGEE YouTube’s Central America Playlist


Contact Us for Questions

Augsburg students please contact or visit us in the Oyate Commons, Christensen Center, lower level

Students from all other colleges and universities please contact to be connected with a CGEE representative

Application Instructions

What You Need to Apply: Non-Augsburg Students
  • A copy of your transcript (unofficial and electronic are accepted)
  • An approval form, signed by your study abroad office
  • Answer the short essay questions
  • Read and review policy information and resources
You can also watch this short 4-minute video if you would like to see what the application looks like:

What You Need to Apply: Auggies
  • Attend an Info Session (or watch online)
  • Review the CGEE Policies and forms (in the application)
  • Answer the essay questions
  • Review, sign, and submit your cost estimate form
Auggies can talk to an advisor in the Oyate Commons any time with application or program questions. 

Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Spring Semester 2019 10/15/2018 ** Rolling Admission 01/21/2019 05/11/2019

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Applicants will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.