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Panama or Peru? Costa Rica or Colombia? It is that time of the year again. Amigos de las Americas hopefuls are beginning the application process. Amigos is a program that offers a chance for students, with a prerequisite of at least two years of Spanish,to travel to Spanish speaking countries over the summer. Learning different cultures and improving their South and Central American communities is the goal of the program.
Each Amigos participant gives their top six locations that they would like to go to for four to eight weeks. After the students’ locations are evaluated, the program offers three destinations that each student has the chance to go to. From there the student chooses their location, ultimately having their own say.
Trips vary from hiking through the Andes mountains in Cajamarca, Peru to harvesting crops in Paraguari, Paraguay. For many students throughout East, Amigos is the highlight of their summer.
For senior Britannie Whitney, Amigos is a familiar program. Last summer Whitney travelled to Bahoruco, Dominican Republic. Her four-hour dinners consisted of coffee and chatting and every night was a whirlwind of dancing the bachata and the merengue.
Whitney agrees with Amigos’ priorities of youth leadership-based work and collaboration with the community.
“Amigos is a really unique program in comparison to others,” Whitney said. “I had such an amazing experience I want to continue with the program!”
Whitney plans to participate in the Amigos program again this summer.
For junior Brooke Erickson, Amigos has been the greatest experience of her life. Last summer Erickson travelled to Madriz, Nicaragua for six weeks.
“Living and learning from these people taught me so much about appreciation for other cultures,” Erickson said. “It’s amazing how only six weeks can change someone’s entire life.”
Although Erickson will not be able to go on another Amigos trip this summer she says she is counting down the days until she is able to return to her Nicaraguan home.
For junior Emily Meiring, Amigos has been an idea for a while. Meiring has been interested in going on an Amigos trip for two years now, but was convinced when a good friend of hers returned with raving reviews.
Now that Meiring is on board, she is considering rural locations including cities in Ecuador and Peru.
“I really like the idea of being so far away from my home and the things I am used to and experiencing a new culture,” Meiring said.
Though each participant’s experience and locations differ, each student agrees that Amigos is a life-changing experience. From experienced travellers to new applicants, the program continues to prosper.