Frequently Asked Questions


Before signing on with Ceiba…

What is experiential learning?

There is a Chinese proverb that says ‘Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.’ Experiential learning is just that, learning from direct experience that encourages the reflection and relationships that increase your knowledge, draw connections between many different disciplines and situations, and develop the long-lasting personal, communicative, and intellectual skills needed to be a leader in your local and global community.

What kinds of projects can I serve with while in Guatemala?

You can apply with one of the five fantastic local organizations that we’ve partnered with that focus on projects from community sustainability through agricultural and skill development to direct involvement in citizen journalism and access to quality education. We have built relationships with these organizations so that we can offer projects that speak directly to a great variety of interests. Check out the In the Field section to learn more about which organization you’d like to serve with.

What grade do I need to be in to sign up?

Students in grades 9 through 12 can sign up with Ceiba. Also, individuals who want to participate as part of Ceiba’s unique Gap+ program (and are between the ages of 18 and 25) are welcome to apply for a Ceiba experience.

What about internships? Can I be an intern through Ceiba?

Of course! Ceiba offers an exciting internship program in cooperation with some of Guatemala’s best nonprofit and social impact organizations. We partner with primarily small projects so your skills, interests, and knowledge directly contribute to the development of your chosen project. At a significantly lower cost, Ceiba internships provide real-world experiences to help you stand out from your professional peers.

Internships are on a rolling basis throughout the year.

When can I come to Guatemala?

Ceiba has two 3-month High School Cycles and two 5-week Summer Cycles, and you can apply for the one that best fits your situation. Note that there is a maximum of 15 students in any one cycle and we will let you know if you have applied for a cycle that is already full. In general, the cycles are: High School Cycle 1. late August to late November; High School Cycle 2. early January to early April; Summer Cycle 1, early June to mid-July and; Summer Cycle 2, mid-July to late August. Exact dates will be determined as students enroll and can coordinate with the home schools.

Am I going to need to bring my own computer for the online part?

Ceiba provides laptops for all students and there is no need to bring any computers from home. There is also a strong internet connection at the student house so that you can access the internet any time you want.

How am I going to get credit from my home school so I graduate on time?

Ceiba staff works directly with your school to ensure that the proper courses are arranged to get you credit while in Antigua. There is a required online learning component to the program for all High School students and you are given time to complete the assignments designated by your teachers. Every student has access to a laptop computer and a solid internet connection runs throughout the student house.

What if I’m having trouble with a particular subject? Can I get some extra help?

While one of the most important but challenging aspects of online learning is self-direction and problem-solving, Ceiba has a fantastic team of tutors on-call to help you through any academic difficulties you may have.

Is Guatemala safe?

Students come directly to Antigua, a popular tourist, UNESCO World Heritage town. Guatemala as a country is no different than the majority of others around the world, in that people who use common sense and listen to advice do not find themselves in uncomfortable situations. We put the highest priority on your safety and we have taken great steps to minimize any risk, from renting a central house with Ceiba staff present at all times and an alarm system for added security to private transportation in the Ceiba van and a communication network with partner organizations that ensures that no one is ever out-of-touch.

Once in Antigua….

Where will I be staying?

As part of the High School program, you will be staying with all the other Ceiba students (15 maximum at any one time) in a student house in the tranquil town right outside of Antigua called San Juan del Obispo. The house has all the comforts of your own home, from hot showers and comfortable beds to a solid internet connection on the in-house laptops and entertainment area. There are rooms for guys and rooms for girls and our cook is there to provide three meals a day. Pictures of the house are coming soon.

Interns have a choice of either sharing a house with other Ceiba interns, staying in an Antigua guesthouse with travelers from all around the world or with a local Guatemalan host family. Costs vary depending on your choice.

I will be working hard, are there trips outside of Antigua that I can take?

There are at least three organized High School weekend trips outside of Antigua during your time here. Guatemala is a country with an amazing geography and we take trips that allow you to experience the absolute best areas. Depending on the time of year and weather conditions, we may go to:  the famous Lake Atitlan, which nestled amongst three giant volcanoes and is itself was formed by a volcanic blast; the ancient Mayan city of Tikal; the black sand beaches of El Paredon or; the breathtakingly beautiful natural springs of Semuc Champey.

Interns also get three Ceiba-sponsored trips around Guatemala, included in the program cost.

Will I be able to get some exercise in my free time?

There are plenty of options to get a good sweat in around Antigua. In addition to gyms, there are excellent running groups, salsa lessons, and we are excited to offer classes in capoeira, the Brazilian martial art and dance, through Capoeira Guatemala. Whatever your particular preference, we work with you to make sure you are able to look after your physical health.

What is the weather like in Antigua?

Antigua is known for its ‘eternal spring’. The temperatures are almost always in the 70s during the day and cooler at night. There are definitely times where you need shorts and also times when you’ll want a jacket or sweater!

Will I have many chances to speak Spanish?

Yes! Your community service is almost entirely in Spanish (since you are working in surrounding communities where very little, if any, English is spoken) and you have your Spanish classes and conversation sessions with local Antigueños. For Gap+, your activities beyond your community service are also mainly in Spanish. Basically, you are learning and speaking Spanish for the majority of the time you are in Guatemala – a true, authentic language immersion with the support of your service project leaders and the Ceiba staff.

Will I be able to make Guatemalan friends?

We have maintained friendships with many of the high school students from the local international school and have set up a ‘buddy program’ so that you meet local kids to talk and spend time with from the moment you get here. These relationships can last years and we feel it is absolutely essential that you have the chance to get to know folks around here during your time in Guatemala.

What if I need to talk with someone to help adjust to Guatemala? Is there someone there I can turn to?

You should always feel like you can talk with any of the Ceiba staff. Sometimes, though, you want an objective ear and Ceiba has a trained on-call therapist. He is Guatemalan by birth but has a deep understanding of other cultures, having spent a number of years working in Europe. Any conversations between you and the therapist are strictly confidential.

How can I stay in touch with my family and friends?

An important part of your time here is that you are immersed in what you are doing. Therefore, it is helpful to limit the amount of contact you have to the US but we also want you to be able to stay in touch when you feel it’s needed. When you arrive, you are given a cell phone for the time you are here. Your phone is on Ceiba’s family plan and all calls to Ceiba staff and other students are free, so that you are always able to call one of us any time day or night. You can also add credit to your phone if you want to use it to call other friends you make here or your family in the US. There is access to Skype in the student house so that you can make longer calls to the US. Of course, you can use your email and Facebook to stay in touch too. Note that for Gap+ host family stays, the homes do not always have internet connection. There are, though, many cafes around Antigua with hotspots and fast wireless connections as well as traditional internet cafes.

Back home again…

How can I stay involved?

You can become a Ceiba Ambassador! As we are a small organization always focused on quality, your word-of-mouth is absolutely essential to help us make these programs available to more students. Also, as students come and then return, you have the opportunity to participate in our orientations, which are a tremendously important part of the Ceiba experience.

Is ‘reverse culture shock’ a real thing?

It is. Even though geographically close, Guatemala is a very different country in its pace, approach to life, and customs. It is part of what makes Guatemala such a fantastic place to be! But you may find that it is a little difficult to readjust to life at home after your time in Antigua. All returning students are invited to a returning orientation and we actively maintain a network of support, from program alumni, friends who have traveled and lived in Guatemala and are now in the US, and, of course, your new friends here.  You may experience some reverse culture shock but it is a source of important reflection and a spark to keep exploring the world around you.