IntroductionFrequently Asked QuestionsHuman Rights / Political IssuesJournal EntriesContact Past ParticipantsDonationsOther ResourcesMultimediaOther ContactsReturn Home

... answers from past participants

Where will we stay | When does the next trip leave? | How can I apply?
What class should I sign up for? | What are the eligibility requirements?
How much does it cost? | What is included in the cost? | What additional costs are there? How much spending money should I take?
What questions did you have or information do you wish you had prior to the trip?
If you could tell people interested in the trip one thing, what would it be?
What was the experience like for those who did/did not speak Spanish?
Where was your placement and what was it like?What was your favorite memory?
How did the trip change or affect your perspective?
Is there anything I'm forgetting that people should know?

Where will we stay?

Oasis Guesthouse: (In English)
Colonia Libertad, Avenida MorazŠn,
Pasaje Morelos #111,
San Salvador, El Salvador.
PBX: (503) 2225-9000
FAX: (503) 2225-0944

When does the next trip leave?

Tentative trip dates are: May1, 2006-May14, 2006

How can I apply?

You must apply through the Padnos International Center (PIC). You may apply online at then click on ďstudy abroadĒ, then click ďapply onlineĒ to begin the process. You may apply in person at

Padnos International Center
130 Lake Ontario Hall
1 Campus Drive
Allendale, MI 49401
Phone: 616.331.3898
Fax: 616.331.3899

What class should I sign up for?

- SW 354: (3 credits) International Service (for undergraduate students)
- SW 630: (3 credits) Global Service Learning (for graduate students)
* must sign up in the Spring 2006 semester

What are the eligibility requirements?

  • must be enrolled in the BSW or MSW program OR have permission of the program director
  • minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 (undergraduates) or 3.0 (graduates)
  • successful application through Padnos International Center (PIC) as well as two letters of recommendation
  • ***Spanish is NOT required

How much does it cost?

The cost is approximately $1800, though may change if airfare or other costs increase. This cost does not include GVSU tuition, however, which must also be paid. That cost ranges from $271 per credit hour for part time undergraduate students; $281 per credit hour for upper division undergraduate students; and $298 per credit hour for graduate students.

What is included in the cost?

- round trip airfare from Grand Rapids
- all transportation while inside El Salvador, excluding any free time
- room and board for duration of the trip
- 2-3 meals per day
- translation services

What additional costs are there? / What is not covered in the cost?

- GVSU tuition (required) [see above for cost]
- Passport (required)
- International Student ID Card (optional)
- vaccinations (check with program director for requirements)
- laundry services at guest house [ 50 cents/article of clothing as of 05/ 2005]
- any food, beverages, entertainment purchased during ďfree timeĒ
- souvenirs and other personal items

Additional Financial Information:

ALL students considering study abroad should have their financial aid reevaluated regardless of whether they are currently receiving federal aid. Additional need-based study abroad grants are also available to eligible students. Early application for financial aid is strongly recommended.

Financial Aid
You may apply your financial aid award towrd study abroad costs. ALL students considering study abroad should have their financial aid reevaluated regardless of whether they are currently receiving federal aid. Additional need-based study abroad grants are also available to eligible students. Early application for financial aid is strongly recommended.

GVSU offers grants to be used specifically for faculty-led programs. These grants, which are approximately $500, are based on financial need only-academic or other criteria are not taken into consideration. All degree-seeking studetns accepted into a GVSU faculty-ed program are automatically connsidered for the grant if they have a current FAFSA on file in the Financial Aid Office. No application required.

How much spending money should I take?

  • I think around $200 I bought quite a few souvenirs- even some pottery- mostly, spending money paid for eating out and souvenirs. Sara, 2000
  • I took $300 and had money left over. I would have taken the same amount. I bought presents for all my family and a few friends. I also bought alcohol the day we went to the beach club. And I donated $40 to Los Pobres. Bridget, 2005
  • I took $500. I filled an entire, very large, suitcase. I bought co-op coffee, pottery, textiles, several hammocks, donated some to Los Pobres, left some extra for my host family in Santa Marta, bought some cigars... It was more than enough money. I liked having a bit too much and being able to donate to different organizations as well as bring home plenty of gifts for everyone. Kelli, 2005
  • I brought about $600 dollars with me. If I were to go again I probably would only bring $400. I was able to buy everything I wanted and still can home with money. I bought a hammock, a fun little wooden drum, reprint of a painting and bookmark by a famous artist, pottery wind chimes, and a few other little things. Laura, 2005

What questions did you have or information do you wish you had prior to going on the trip?

  • I wish I had known some of the people a little better. I also wish that I had paid attention to more in those pre-trip sessions to learn more about the history, etc. Sara, 2000
  • I received a lot of good info and most of my questions were answered. I packed everything I could possibly think of and I used it all. Even if Dr. Guevara tells you to pack light, pack huge! If I didnít use something, someone else used it. Pack at least two towels. Bring magazines to read on the plane or if thereís some down time. Bring a 1st aid kit. Bring everything you can think of, you will not be sorry. Ask me if you need a list of what to pack. Yes, I had a suitcase of donations, too. Bridget, 2005
  • Odd as it may sounds, there isnít anything. I like to know the basics of a place and then go get my own opinions. Sometimes if you know everything in advance, then your expectations are all, already set. I like to figure things out on my own. Laura, 2005
  • I wish I would have put more effort into learning the history of El Salvador. There is so much history behind how the people and the culture have come to be... everything that makes them so unique and wonderful. It would have been helpful to have known some things prior to the trip. I also wish we would have spent more time together socially before the trip. At first, everything seems overwhelming, and few of us knew each other before the trip... it would have helped with the processing of the experience. Kelli, 2005

If you could tell people interested in the trip one thing, what would it be?

  • To find a way to go on the trip and stop worrying about money and class credits. It is the best experience you will have throughout your whole college life. Laura, 2005
  • The relationships I formed on that trip are some of the most important relationships I have today- I made lifelong friends. Sara, 2000
  • If you could tell people interested in the trip one thing, what would it be? Keep an open mind and come as prepared as you can. Ask Dr. Guevara and other people who have been on the trip lots of questions. Be prepared to be a little homesick and tired. Bridget, 2005
  • Donít hesitate... go now... sign up... find the money, charge it, whatever needs to happen, make it happen. Donít miss out on this adventure. You will discover yourself on this trip. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go live with people from another culture and language, to learn about who they are and how they became that way. You will learn more about yourself, your own country, and your own attitudes/beliefs than you ever knew. This trip gives you insight and changes your perspective forever. Kelli, 2005

What was the experience like for those who did not speak Spanish? What was the experience like for those that did speak Spanish?

  • For those that did not speak Spanish, they were able to learn a lot and picked up quickly- I was in a placement that did not speak English- and my Spanish was rusty, but I got along just fine- itís amazing how much you can communicate even if you donít know the language  Sara, 2000
  • I do not speak a word of Spanish and I thought the trip was great. I went down to El Salvador prepared to not understand much, so I was not surprised when I could not understand. I did learn some very basic Spanish, and used it whenever I could. Everyone was so friendly down there, and very patient. I would encourage those who go down to know their numbers. It helped enormously. Bridget, 2005
  • I do not speak Spanish and most of the time it was fine. When we were staying with families, though I felt like I missed out on not being able to talk to them directly. I wish I did know Spanish because it probably would have increased my experience, but at the same time I wouldnít stay home because of it. Laura, 2005
  • I am fluent in Spanish and the translation for classmates wore me out. No matter how comfortable you are with speaking it, your brain will become mush. It is a great experience and great practice, no matter what level of Spanish you are at. Whether you speak it or not, language is no reason to miss out on this opportunity. Any challenge you have in translating or communicating is well worth the rewards you will gain from this experience. Kelli, 2005

Where was your placement and what was it like?

  • The Institute for the Protection of Minors and Children. The first day, we mainly helped out at the orphanage. We played with the babies and children. The second day we went on home visits to families who had adopted children from the orphanage. It was a wonderful experience! We visited six families all of whom had adopted children from the orphanage. These visits were basically check ups to see how the families were doing. All of the families were thrilled to have these children. What was very interesting about these visits is that we visited homes of various economic standing. One was the most beautiful home I had ever seen anywhere. Then we went to some homes I would call middle class. We also visited some homes that were quite modest. The point is, the Institute is not just looking for rich families to adopt these babies. Bridget, 2005
  • My placement was at Los Pobres. I was there with two other students. We interacted with students of various grades, I took care of babies at the daycare center, we handed out food supplies, and we interacted with the elderly. Unfortunately, the placement lacked in what it could have been. This happened because of various reasons. However, I still learned a lot about myself, social workers burdens, and how to deal with my feelings regarding the experience. So, overall looking back it was worth it. Laura, 2005
  • My placement was at Flor de Piedra (Flower of Stone). It is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) recognized with the United Nations. It was started, is run by, and services sex workers in El Salvador. We participated in workshops directly with sex workers at their place of business. This placement is not for the feint of heart as you will hear terrible stories of torture and murder... stories of how getting raped is just a risk of the job, and the job is necessary to feed oneself and oneís children. This placement is for those that can leave religious or moralistic judgement aside and see these women as people.... human beings doing a terrible job not because they enjoy it, not because it will make them rich, but because they need to survive. It is nothing short of enlightenment, as long as you are open to what these women have to teach us. Kelli, 2005

What was your favorite memory from the trip?

  • My favorite memory was going into the country, riding in the pickup truck, and laughing so hard that I was in tears- the conversations with other students, with the people of El Salvador- the children- it was absolutely amazing and indescribable in words. Sara, 2000
  • I had such a blast. There are too many to name. Our night out at La Luna was pretty memorable. We had such a good time getting to know each other better and then we got lost on the way home. That was great. The town of Suchitoto was awesome too. Bridget, 2005
  • Simply put, solidaridad... the notion of solidarity by way of community and humanism became real concepts for me, thanks to the people of El Salvador. The only way to understand it is to experience it... and it is an awesome experience that I will always have with me. Kelli, 2005

How did the trip change or affect your perspective?

  • I was able to visualize a world outside of my own country, state, city- I learned about things that I was then able to bring home and educate others- we are so lucky, yet so uninformed at the same time. Sara, 2000
  • Oh, totally. I see a lot of things differently now and I just feel so lucky to have the things I do. I think this trip would be wonderful for anyone. Bridget, 2005
  • In general I learned about Central America. Before the trip I knew very little about that part of the world. It also reinforced by beliefs that the world is smaller than we like to think and that what we do does impact everyone. The whole, we are all one perspective. It also made me realize how important positive, hopeful attitudes are to the well-being of a personís psycho-social being. Laura, 2005
  • This trip reminded me that no matter how well-read or researched one is, we can never have enough knowledge or understanding. There will always be injustice in the world, therefore the world will always need social workers to fight in solidarity with and on behalf of those unable to fight and speak for themselves. We must never give up hope and we must never stop fighting. Kelli, 2005

Is there anything Iím forgetting that people should know???

  • I think something that is important for people to remember is to take it easy and enjoy the experience for what it is. I was in a beautiful country with my friends and I didnít have to worry about homework or family responsibilities. This is a great trip with great leaders. Bridget, 2005
  • The only thing to do is to go with an open mind and let the experience happen to you. Kelli, 2005

Additional Recommendations:

  • create an emergency list and leave it with one or two family members (see the example list)
  • look into international insurance coverage- GVSUís student health insurance already has this coverage built in; with all other plans, the coverage is extra
  • be true to yourself in your journal- it is your guide to all that you experience while in El Salvador, and will help you re-integrate once you arrive back home
Images of El Salvador