UC Davis Summer Abroad


Status: Open

Info Session: 2/13/18, 12pm 
International Center 3119
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Ecological and Social Issues at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala 

On Location


Students will stay in a large house owned by a local NGO (Amigos del Lago) in Santa Catarina Palopo at the shore of the lake. The house serves as a research/education center. The house is equipped with a large conference room, a chemistry lab, kitchen, and three large bedrooms each with its own bathroom. There are two bunk beds in one room, three in the other, and five in the largest one. Summer Abroad will be in charge of assigning students to the rooms. The instructor and the TA for the program will be sharing the accommodations with the students (see pictures to the right). 

Student Voices - Study Abroad: Our Stories, Articles by Lujain Al-Saleh

Medium Logo

"Keep Lake Atitlán Blue"

"Post-Colonial Guatemala: Cycles of Globalization, Neoliberalism, and Environmental Degradation"

"The Coffee Country"

"The Great Research Duo: Meet Eliska and Jenise"

"See You Soon Santa Catarina"


All meals are included in the program fees. Breakfast will be served at the house and lunch and dinner at a local hotel.  


Mornings will be usually devoted to interactive lectures. Several times a week, students will spend the afternoons visiting relevant and interesting locations around the lake and higher up in the watershed, including institutions/projects, farms, water treatment plants, etc. Some of the evenings, representatives of governmental institutions, NGOs and various stakeholders will give informal talks. The class will draw parallels between the recent attempts to save Lake Atitlan and the 50-year old history of Lake Tahoe, CA and NV. On the weekends, students will be able to relax around the lake, visit the Maya museums or many great tourist locations like Antigua, Fuentes Georginas, and others, and immerse themselves in the local culture.

Note: The program schedule, including the daily itinerary and planned activities, are subject to change at the discretion of the instructor.

Excursions and Day Trips

Part of the instructions will be visits to various communities around the lake to see activities and projects related to our classes (Permaculture institut IMAP in San Lucas Toliman; FEDEMPA coffee processing facility in San Pedro Laguna; Tul growing association organized by Ati’tAla’ NGO in San Juan Laguna, and others.  During the weekends, whole day trips will be available to interesting cultural and environmental locations such as Antigua, San Pedro volcano, Las Fuentes Georginas hot springs and others.

Study Abroad Advisory of Student Risk

Participation in this UC Davis Study Abroad program requires travel to and extended living in a foreign location(s) abroad. UC Davis Study Abroad endeavors to reduce and mitigate risk wherever possible.  However, the environments and risks associated with living in these locations are substantially different than those found during a regular course of study at UC Davis. All participants must download and review the following information prior to departure. Any questions should be directed to the Program Coordinator.

Study Abroad General Risk Advisory

Program Specific Risk Advisories (PDF)

About Guatemala

Guatemala is one of Centro America’s most diverse countries. It has a rich and distinctive culture from the long mix of elements from Spain and the native Maya people. This diverse history and the natural beauty of the land have created a destination rich in interesting and scenic sites. Guatemala has been designated as a biodiversity hotspot due to its biological abundance and unique ecosystems.

About Lake Atitlan: “Nineteenth-century traveler/chronicler John L Stephens, writing in Incidents of Travel in Central America, called Lago de Atitlán 'the most magnificent spectacle we ever saw,' and he had been around a bit…Fertile hills dot the landscape, and over everything loom the volcanoes, permeating the entire area with a mysterious beauty. It never looks the same twice. No wonder many outsiders have fallen in love with the place and made their homes here.” Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/guatemala/the-highlands-lago-de-atitlan#ixzz2bmL0KqCn

Currency: Quetzal  

Language Spoken: Spanish

Weather and Climate

You will be in Guatemala during the rainy season. For the month of July, on average, lows are in the 60s and highs will be in the 80s. The lake is located at around 5,200 feet. Rain comes usually in the afternoon and it can be a typical tropical strong downpour. It can also be windy. Current weather.

Research Your Destination

Summer Abroad endeavors to provide you with as much accurate information as possible. However, information can change daily. It is your responsibility to become acquainted with your host country before your departure.

We have listed some good starting points for your personal research.