Monday, June 14, 2010


On Friday, I went back to college.

Sort of.

On Friday, I visited a Guatemalan university.

Every month, our group of año de servicio kids (students in between middle and high school or in between high school and...the real world) takes an outing in order to learn more about post-NPH opportunities in work or school. This month, they're visiting a few universities across Guatemala, and on Friday, I had the pleasure of inviting myself along.

We visited the Antigua campus of La Universidad de Rafael Landívar. It's a private, Jesuit school in operation in Guatemala since 1961, and the Antigua location is one of its many satellite campuses.

After summer '08 working in the incredible William & Mary Office of Undergraduate Admission (Interns, I miss you guys!), I've become somewhat of a college admissions nerd. So, during Friday afternoon's admission presentation at Rafael Landívar, I think I was more into it than the kids were. Everything was just so different from the U.S. higher education system.

The thoughts that were running through my head were:

-There are four "schools," in the university, which seems pretty normal: the School of Political and Social Sciences, the School of Business and Economic Sciences, the School of Humanities, and the School of Health Sciences.

-There are only about a dozen majors though, and they're really limiting, which seems pretty weird: Social Work, Business Administration, Tourism, Math & Science Education, Early Childhood Education, Clinical Psychology, Speech and Language Therapy, Nursing, Primary Care Nursing, and Occupational Therapy. Where are all the Government and English majors I knew in the liberal arts world?

-Did she just say that the only extracurricular activity available is the intramural soccer tournament the campuses sometimes hold? How boring.

-A tecnico degree takes about 2-3 years to complete. Sounds like an associate's degree. If you really want to be educated, you take 5 years to complete your licenciatura degree. It's the equivalent of a simple bachelor's degree in the States, but it's a huge deal here. Once you've finished your licenciatura, people at your workplace can stop using your name and start calling you "licenciada" or "licenciado." Not kidding.

-This room is falling apart. Ceiling tiles are missing, the floor has huge cracks in it, and these desks are horrible. It must be in worst shape than the most poorly-funded community college in the U.S. No wonder so few people go to university in this country. I would never want to spend 5 years in this classroom.

-Degrees can be "plan diario" or "plan fin de semana." Plan diario is like normal college -- you have classes during the day from Monday through Friday. Plan fin de semana means you attend classes on Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you work during the week so that you can afford the school in the first place. In Guatemala, the plan fin de semana is the reality for most people.

-It's considered pretty expensive to attend university in Guatemala, but look at these numbers. I almost couldn't believe how cheap it was. At this private Jesuit university, for a 5-year licenciatura degree, for a full course load, your monthly bill is 535 Quetzales. That's about $67 per month. Let's be crazy and pretend the school year is year-round. $67 x 12 = $804 per year. Take the five years to get your licenciatura degree? $804 x 5 = $4,020 for a degree. Four thousand dollars for the equivalent of your bachelor's degree. That is insane.

Call me Dean Daut, but pretty interesting, right?

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