by Cecilia Vasquez, Director AFS Guatemala 

The AFS organizations in 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 Read on to discover a case study of a program we recently organized as an exchange between universities in the Dominican Republic and Guatemala, with the AFS Global up curriculum.

During the month of April of 2023, the Pedagogical University of Dominican Republic: ISFODOSU sent a group of 10 pre-service teachers and a faculty member to Guatemala for a 12-day study tour.

This program, organized by AFS (our offices in Santo Domingo and Guatemala) had several components that made it an unforgettable experience for the students, as well as an intense learning experience.

It all started with the cohort recruitment: the University selected students and faculty members that sought the challenge of having an intercultural experience in what some might think was a similar country.

The next step was to have the group take the Intercultural Development Inventory Assessment (IDI) so the progress in cultural competence development could be measured. IDI provides in-depth insights on how individuals and groups make sense of cultural differences and also how they respond to cultural differences. The IDI measures both one’s mindset and skillset.

As with any AFS adult program, the group received the AFS Global Competence Certificate curriculum, specifically the  AFS Global Up Educators, a virtual learning program consisting of 20 modules and four Guided Reflection Sessions held by AFS Qualified Facilitators.

The group was ready to travel to Guatemala! After a four-hour flight, they arrived in Guatemala City and were taken by the AFS volunteers to the site  in Antigua, Guatemala where the 2-day cultural induction took place. The students, together with local AFS volunteers shared: cultural visits, reflection sessions, lectures and some sightseeing.

The in-country program consisted of immersive living with a volunteer host family and experiencing co-teaching in class over a two-week span. In each school, the program participants had the opportunity to shadow certified teachers, share their educational systems and practices with the faculty of the school, as well as lead some innovative learning activities with the Guatemalan students.

To wrap up the program, the group participated in a workshop delivered by a Guatemalan University Universidad del Istmo on the critical topic of “Special Needs in the Classroom”.

Upon returning home, the participants took the post IDI Assessment, which resulted in an overall group increase of 8.18 pts. These results are consistent with many short-term study away findings. IDI quantitative growth is often between 8.00-14.00 pts, with anything over 7 points considered statistically significant.

After such a successful program, ISFODOSU decided to send a second group this past August to Costa Rica, with the same program elements and similar results. Read more about the participant experiences:

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

I enjoyed being at a school that values innovation, they have a whole department dedicated to innovative teaching methods, teaching approaches to improve education quality.”—N. Sánchez

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

Thank you AFS for putting this life changing experience program together, the support of the volunteers and staff made all the difference!”—E. Bautista