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Why Choose Guatemala as a Study Abroad Destination?


Guatemala is a beautiful country rich in history and cultural diversity. From ancient Mayan ruins to Spanish colonial monuments, there is no lack of sights to see, things to experience and ways to study the culture including many study abroad programs.

The indigenous population speaks over 23 different languages, not to mention the Spanish language. The landscape ranges from Caribbean to volcanic to urban to jungle. Up until recently the country had been veritably undiscovered by North American and European tourists because of its prolonged civil war and general instability.

In the past, Guatemala was a danger to tourists, study abroad students and unsuspecting visitors, to the point where the US issued a travel advisory. In an effort to become more tourist-friendly, Guatemala has increased security and hired tourist security at popular tourist and study abroad sites. Recently, this work has paid off as the US has removed the long-standing travel advisory. All of these factors make Guatemala a great location to study abroad.

The following is a list of a few popular Guatemalan destinations and their respective highlights:

Antigua: The first official capital city of Guatemala, Antigua is a lively and contemporary city. Also being an historical marker city, much of Antigua remains pristine, untouched and unchanged. In many ways it remains a truly colonial city. Antigua is such a beautiful and welcoming city, and it has become one of Latin America’s most popular cities to study abroad and is home to over 40 language schools that offer study abroad programs.

Although Antigua does keep a close grip on its past, it is still very much alive in the modern world. Rife with Salsa club sup-scale hotels and restaurants, and a movie theater, the nightlife is ever present. You will hear Spanish being the most prevalent, then the numerous Mayan languages, followed by any number of European languages of those who study abroad. Antigua has grown quite popular with many North Americans and Europeans tourists and study abroad students for its sightseeing, picturesque beauty; its affordable living and study abroad program variety.

Lake Atitlan: Visiting the villages surrounding Lake Atitlan is a perfect opportunity to see and engage present day Mayan culture in all its magnificent splendor. Lake Atitlan is one of Guatemala's top tourist destinations and study abroad components and most visitors agree that it is the most beautiful lake in the world. This is a "must visit" location for tourists or those that study abroad. Located in the department of Solola in the Guatemalan highlands, Lake Atitlan is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, which make for a magnificent background and highlight the lake's beauty. The forests around the lake are also one of the last habitats of the Quetzal, Guatemala's national bird.

Despite the fact that Hurricane Stan ravaged the area with heavy rains that caused landslides, Lake Atitlan and its surrounding areas remain one of the most visited areas in Guatemala. With its ring of surrounding volcanoes, almost every view is a picturesque and breathtaking one. Many trips are organized during the study abroad programs to Lake Atitlan to be able to complete the study abroad cultural immersion experience.

Lake Atitlan visitors have the rare opportunity to see unique local practices firsthand and as a study abroad student staying for a longer period of time may get the chance to visit more than once.

Tikal: Tikal is Guatemala's most famous and also most impressive Mayan archaeological site; students who study abroad call this the land of wonders. Continuously settled for more than 1500 years, Tikal was abandoned around the year 900 AD for reasons not yet fully understood. The bulk of its structures and monumental temples were built during the height of the Mayan Classic Period, approximately from 200 AD to 850 AD, after which Tikal began its mysterious decline.

Although locals probably always knew of the ruins, Tikal was not officially "rediscovered" until 1848 when an expedition was made to the site by members of the Peten government.

In the twentieth century, mammoth excavations and reconstructions have been undertaken through a collaborative effort between the Guatemalan government and several U.S. Universities.

Submitted by:

John Slocum

John Slocum is the president of AmeriSpan, a leader in immersion language programs and study abroad since 1993. 85 cities, 35 countries. 25,000 past participants. http://www.amerispan.com/language_schools/

Enjoy a free Spanish Phrase ebook: http://www.amerispan.com/spdownload - This 30-pager is great if you quickly want to learn Spanish phrases for travel.





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