IDEAS-AVANCSO University of Arizona
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Abigail Kennedy

Paterno Fellow
Major: English Literature and Secondary English Education
Minor: History and Latin American Studies
Hometown: Malvern, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I knew that I wanted to study in Guatemala because my Schreyer thesis focuses on Guatemala. So I talked with Kate Manni in the Education Abroad office about programs to the country and since we do not have a program, she recommended this one through the University of Arizona.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

During the weeks I would take classes in Antigua, Guatemala. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I interned at Los Patojos, an alternative charter school in Jocotenango. On Tuesdays I taught English to teens and young adults. On Wednesdays I taught creative writing and art in Spanish to ten through twelve year olds. On the weekends, our program would often take us around the country to national landmarks and cultural sites as a part of our classes. For my Anthropology and Sociology class, I wrote a research paper in conjunction with my Schreyer thesis work. This paper was on indigenous people in the military and civil self-defense patrols during the worst period of genocide of indigenous people (1978-1983) in the thirty-six year Guatemalan civil war.

How did this experience impact you academically?

The trip was absolutely incredible and supported me in all of my academic and career goals. Working at Los Patojos gave me more experience as a bilingual teacher, which is one of my eventual goals. I got a better sense of what it means for kids from places considered "disadvantaged neighborhoods" to succeed in school. For both my education and creative writing career aspirations, learning more about the cultures of Guatemala and larger, the cultures of Central America, was crucial. Through my classes I was able to study and research more about periods of the Guatemalan Civil War that I couldn't have accessed in the United States. Famous social science, literary, artistic, and historical speakers came to our classes every week to discuss their specialties, which was both immensely helpful for improving my understanding of the country in terms of my undergraduate thesis and immensely inspirational just as someone who loves learning.

The trip was absolutely incredible and supported me in all of my academic and career goals. 

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

While this trip did not change my career goals, it did certainly reinforce them and better prepare me for them. I've always wanted to be a teacher and for the past four years I've wanted to work specifically with English Language Learners (ELL students). In Guatemala I gained so much insight into what the lives and backgrounds of students who want to migrate to the US are like. Although I know I'll have students from all around the world, this trip taught me how to notice the intricacies of cultures different (and similar) to my own. This trip gave me so much firsthand experience in the country and the culture that I could never have researched remotely from the U.S.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would definitely recommend this trip to Liberal Arts students who want an active study abroad experience. Students could take a variety of classes while also completing an internship. This trip is for people who want to push themselves out of their comfort zones a little, have adventures, and learn a lot. I fell in love with this country because of this trip and I cannot recommend it enough.

For more information on global experiences for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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