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UVA in Guatemala: Public Health, and Development: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Community Engagement in Guatemala
Guatemala City, Guatemala; Huehuetenango, Guatemala; Quetzaltenango, Guatemala; San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala (Education Abroad Programs Program)
Program Terms: Summer
Budget Sheets Summer
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2019 01-MAR-2019 10-MAR-2019 20-MAY-2019 05-JUN-2019
NOTE: If accepted to this program, you must commit to or decline participation by March 15.
Fact Sheet:
Class Status:
1st year, 2nd year, 3rd year, 4th year, Graduate student Minimum GPA Requirement: 2.5
Language Requirement:
Open to Non-UVa Students:
Housing: With program group Language Courses Offered: No
Language of Instruction: English
Credit Type:
Direct Credit
Program Type:
Faculty led, Island
Tuition Payments Made To:
Education Abroad Advisor:
Liz Wellbeloved
Application Fee:
Study Abroad Administrative Fee:
Subject Area:
Anthropology, Engineering, Global Development Studies, Latin American Studies, Public Health
Program Description:
Guatamala Lead Photo

UVA in Guatemala: Engineering, Public Health & Development


Real-world problems are inherently interdisciplinary. Public health and development are deeply intertwined with engineering, and engineering always takes place in a complex sociocultural context. This inter-dependence shows clearly in the challenges that communities face in Guatemala, a country with a rich and deep history, a wildly varied landscape, and incredible cultural diversity. The country has numerous assets (human and natural), but it faces many challenges. Thus, Guatemala presents a fascinating opportunity for students to learn about how Public Health, Engineering, and Community Development intersect in resource-limited environments. We will investigate student-created community projects of the UVA-Guatemala Initiative, and we will compare these with the work of other NGOs to understand better how ethical collaboration can make a difference in people’s lives.

The course focuses on different aspects of Public Health, ranging from infrastructure, health care, potable water, sanitation, the environment, and education, etc. and examines how contextual factors like economy, politics, culture and history (pre-Hispanic Maya, Colonial, and Post-Colonial), and globalization influence those Public Health aspects. Given the transdisciplinarity of Public Health, this program brings together multiple UVA schools-Medicine, Nursing, Engineering, Education, and College of Arts & Sciences. This course is open to all UVA undergraduates, particularly those interested in public health, engineering, global development, Central America, and those considering health-related careers.

Collaboration requires shared experience. To this end, Guatemalan university students will join us for the entire course. We will travel together, work on group projects, and share rooms. This collaboration offers an unforgettable intercultural experience. As we study and learn--using Public Health as a window--we will learn an incredible amount about Guatemala, and its people, and about ourselves. Conversely, the multidisciplinary perspectives of these two fields combine to provide an insightful lens through which to better understand Guatemala and its people.

Spanish language ability is not required, but you will be challenged to advance your Spanish and to use what you already know. All course participants will be offered ten (10) free hours of one-on-one Spanish lessons via a Skype-based collaboration between UVA and Celas Maya Spanish School, with the option to later continue on your own. You may receive extra credit for these lessons, and they will be a great way to develop or to refine your Spanish skills!

Location IconLocation

Guatemala is known as the "Land of Eternal Spring" and the epicenter of the former Mayan empire. Our studies will focus on the communities surrounding stunning Lake Atitlán, as well as the city of Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela), the second most important city of Guatemala.

Conversely, the multidisciplinary perspectives of these two fields combine to provide an insightful lens through which to better understand Guatemala and its people.

Guatamala Teaching in a Truck Guatamala Students

Courses IconCourses

Public Health, and Development: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Community Engagement in Guatemala
(STS 3500, STS 5500, GSGS 3120;or EVSC 3559 3 credits)
A UVA-Guatemala Initiative Program

Course Information
UVA participants will earn three (3) UVA credits upon successful completion of this program. The program is cross-listed as STS 3500, STS 5500, GSGS 3120, and EVSC 3559. Students will elect which course they register for as part of the application process. Spanish skills will be utilized but are not required.

Faculty IconFaculty

Kent Wayland |
Lecturer in the Department of Engineering and Society.

Eric Anderson |
Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Aaron Mills |
Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

Jessica Ohana González |
In-Country Director for the UVA-Guatemala Initiative. She has over a decade’s experience directing non-profits and working in community development. She resides in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

David R. Burt, MD |
Director of the UVA-Guatemala Initiative and an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine.

Accommodation and MealsAccommodation and Meals

Students will be housed in a hotel while in San Lucas Tolimán and Xela.

Cost and Financial Aid

The program cost and payment schedule are listed under the "Budget Sheets" link at the top of this page. Students with identifiable financial need are encouraged to apply for fellowships, scholarships, and financial aid.

Guatamala Group Photo

Accessibility IconAccessibility

The University of Virginia believes in providing reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities on an individual and flexible basis. If you believe that you would require adjustments in order to fully participate in this program, please contact the Student Disability Access Center at 434-243-5180 as early as possible in order to begin this dialogue.

Passport IconPassport and Visa

All participants will need a valid passport in order to participate in the program. Students must ensure that their passport is valid at least six months past the program return date. US passport holders will not need a visa to participate in this program. International students should meet with their International Student Advisor in the International Studies Office as part of the application process.

Health Info IconHealth and Safety Information

Guatemala Health Information (from the CDC)

All students considering Education Abroad should consult the Students Abroad section of the U.S. Department of State’s web-based travel resources and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Traveler’s Health web resources to research health, safety, and security conditions; visa requirements; immunization requirements; and recommendations on staying healthy and safe in their target destination(s). Students should also carefully review the UVA Education Abroad Health & Safety Abroad web page. Parents and guardians are strongly advised to review all of these resources, as well. UVA students and visiting students enrolled in UVA Education Abroad programs are subject to the University of Virginia’s Policy on Student International Travel.

Please note: Guatemala has an U.S. Department of State advisory of "Reconsider Travel". Consult:
UVA Travel Alerts, Notices, & Warnings
U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories
and Policy on Student International Travel.