Brenau’s Guatamala 2015 Study Abroad Program Promises Lifetime Experience

volcanoNext February, Spring Break 2015 will mark the fifth anniversary of Brenau’s Guatemala program. Previously administered by the College of Business & Mass Communication, Shelton Bellew has moved the program under the auspices of Dean Andrea Birch and the College of Fine Arts & Humanities.

“We decided to expand the course offerings where students can earn partial credit in a class by participating in the Guatemala trip,” Bellew said. “In the spring semester 2015, substantial credit, and exemption from a number of requirements within the courses will be granted to student participants. In addition, students enrolled in the Guatemala-affiliated courses receive a $250 discount on the overall price.”

The instructors chosen for the 2015 program are Melissa Whatley, who teaches Spanish at Brenau, and Rudi Kiefer, whose fields are in the physical sciences and in human geography. Enrolling in either Spanish 101, 102, Earth Science (PS104), or Geography (GY201) makes students eligible for the discount and for the classwork substitution.

“This isn’t a vacation with class credit, although there will be plenty of time for sightseeing, meeting locals, and shopping to get that authentic hand-made woolen hat for Uncle Millard,” Kiefer said. “The Guatemala Program has a service component which includes visiting one or several public schools, and working with the children there. Education majors have found this part particularly enriching. On the other hand, we’ll also be visiting local businesses and food production enterprises that have been of great interest to Brenau students in the past.”

Science students are also in for a treat, as Guatemala is located in a physically unique place. No less than 33 volcanoes are found in this small Central American Country. The climate is influenced by both Pacific and Atlantic ocean waters, plus a range of tall mountains. At the convergence of four major building blocks of the world, the tectonic plates, Guatemala also experiences earthquakes on a regular basis. “It doesn’t mean we’ll get buried by volcanic lava, or become trapped in a major quake like the Japan one in 2011,” Kiefer said. “It’ll be more of a learning experience that shows students how different an environment can be. And on the geographic side of it, previous participants have called this an ‘unforgettable trip’, learning about social conditions, the economy, and family life in a country that’s economically challenged.”

“Do you ever wonder why we have such an influx of children arriving from Guatemala and Honduras in the U.S.?” Whatley added. “Many are orphans, but all are hoping for a better chance to live a productive life. Once you’ve met these adorable kids, they’ll stay forever in your heart and mind.”

The chance for Brenau students is now. Applications are still being accepted for the trip, and for enrolling in one of the four classes connected with it. No previous Spanish, geography, or science skills are required. For more information, simply google “Brenau Guatemala” or go directly to, where an online application is available. Inquiries can also be emailed to,, or