McGeorge School of Law

Build Career Skills for Success in Guatemala this Summer

March 14, 2017

Summer program participants in Antigua

Students and faculty in the 2016 summer Inter-American Program in Antigua, Guatemala (photo: Luis Mogollón).

Law students and law graduates from all around the world are invited to participate in the McGeorge Inter-American Summer Program in Guatemala, which starts May 24, 2017. Students who participate in the program develop legal skills critical for successful careers in any area of law.

McGeorge student Melody Aguilar, '18, participated in the summer 2016 Inter-American program. "This program was extremely valuable for me because it helped me get a better sense of the legal field I would like to pursue and taught me very valuable skills for the international field," she said. "The client interview simulation aspect of the course has made me more culturally competent and sensitive which is a vital skill to be respectful towards clients in any legal field."

"The Guatemala program made an impact on my career because it taught me how to work with a very diverse group of individuals and provided me with experiences that can be related to my work here in the states," said McGeorge student Sylvia La Rosa, '17. "The ability to communicate effectively with people from all walks of life is an asset that is necessary for a law student entering the public interest sector."

Sylvia has accepted a post-bar position at the Sacramento District Attorney's office. During her externship in Guatemala, she worked at the office of the Ministerio Público, which is Guatemala's Attorney General's Office. In that capacity she learned about all phases of the criminal trial process in Guatemala.

Now in its ninth year, the Inter-American Program in Antigua, Guatemala offers courses from May 24 to June 16 followed by an optional field placement from June 19 to Aug. 7. Field placements are available in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Chile. In 2016, students from six U.S. law schools and five Latin American law schools participated in the program.

McGeorge founded the program in 2009 and partnered with the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law in 2011 to offer the innovative Inter-American Summer Program, which is distinctive among U.S. law schools because of the emphasis on a true bilingual and cross-cultural learning experience. In 2013, Gonzaga University School of Law, in Spokane, Wash., became an affiliate of the program.

Study-abroad programs offered by most U.S. law schools, including those that take place in Latin America, only teach courses in English and the students are from American law schools. By contrast, the Inter-American Program in Guatemala takes a bilingual and inter-cultural approach to legal education, offering substantive law classes about Latin America taught in Spanish to American and Guatemalan students. There is also an English-language class and an experiential course that focuses on interviewing and counseling. Students with a lower level of Spanish take language classes with their own tutor to improve their proficiency during the program.

Students who have participated in the program have returned to the U.S. with a new perspective on Latin America, on the United States, and often even on life. It is a country with an enormous indigenous population, where many people in rural communities speak Spanish as a second language. It is also a country with enormous geographic diversity, including many active volcanoes, gorgeous lakes and rain forests, and some of the best Mayan ruins.