ENG 177: Guatemala Service Project

This course will introduce students to the history and culture of Guatemala and follows with a service learning experience in Guatemala. Students will travel over the winter break to Guatemala and volunteer with a local NGO to build a home for a local family.

Program Dates: January 4 - 13, 2021

Program Description

This course/study abroad combination seeks to encourage the development of global & intercultural competencies through critical, constructive and creative thinking. Through this service learning opportunity in Guatemala, students will also examine the topics of diversity, teamwork, and career readiness as it relates to their student development and working with fellow students at the University of Illinois. Students are introduced to the history and culture of Guatemala during the 10-week in course sessions, and then travel to Guatemala and volunteer with a local NGO to build a home for a local family.

Fall Semester

Take a 1-credit hour course on service learning! You'll prepare for studying abroad through an introduction to Guatemala’s history, culture, people, and environment.

Winter Break

Travel to Guatemala for 10 days of integrative experiential learning! You'll live with a host family, work on building the homes, tour the beautiful country, and more!

Lifetime Learning

Take away friendships, experiential learning and an interactive experience that will last a lifetime.

“The whole bus ride to the town I was glued to the window. On the drive there, you got to see the first trickles of Guatemalan culture that you learned about: the beautiful and colorful cloth that people wear, the buses that are colorfully decorated. The rest of the trip we were with our host family. It was a great opportunity to practice my Spanish skills and interact with normal people there and see what it’s like to live there.”

Service: Students travel to and participate actively in the life of the host community during the duration of the program. This participation includes community- driven project work in collaboration with a Guatemalan NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) and community partner host families. The intercultural project experience serves as a basis for course discussion and student writing.


Intercultural Immersion: Students will participate in building a house in Antigua, Guatemala. They will have the opportunity to learn from local community members as part of the academic experience. Field trips to sites with local cultural meaning, history and attraction are also part of course activities.

Student Experiences

“Be willing to accept a challenge, face difficulty and come out of it a better person, student and engineer.”

“Handing over the keys to the family was the most memorable moment. Family on one side, workers in the middle, us on the other side. It was a neat ceremony.”

“My favorite experience was at the end of the trip when we finished building our houses. Our family, the day before we finished, made us a big meal. Seeing how much they were thankful and how much they liked us being there was really nice.”

“I was the only person from my major on the trip. It was great because I walked into the room not knowing anyone. By the end of the trip, it was a solid group of friends I had. Especially being a freshman, it was a great opportunity to meet engineers that I would not otherwise necessarily run into.”


“Here, it was all for the team. No single person could have constructed the house. Why did they have a bunch of people come here and help them? We have no skills for construction. It isn’t about what you come in with, it’s about what you put forward. Because we have a team of motivated people were able to meet that goal and build that house.”