Central America is one of the most geographically and culturally diverse regions in the world. From towering mountains to dense rainforests to sprawling beaches, the intern abroad in Central America can enjoy a showcase of nature’s gifts while also earning professional experience in a developing economy. If you are looking for a place to develop your Spanish, make a positive impact on local communities, and adventure through some of the most amazing landscapes you’ll ever see, than Central America is the perfect destination for your internship abroad.
Central America is a relatively small region. It encompasses seven countries sandwiched between Mexico to the north and Colombia to the south, and is home to a total population of just over 42 million people.
From north to south, the seven countries that comprise Central America are Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Of these, Belize is the only country whose national language is English – the rest speak Spanish predominantly, with a variety of other indigenous tongues still practiced by a minority.
Each of these countries is unique from the other, shaped by intricate forces of culture and history, and each can be a rewarding place for an internship in its own right. For example Panama has a booming capital in Panama City, which can be a great place to gain business experience in a global atmosphere. Alternatively you also might consider interning in the rural areas of Nicaragua, one of the poorer countries in the region, for quite a different experience.
The largest cities in Central America include San Jose, Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa, San Salvador, and Panama City. Do some research about what countries and cities offer the best opportunity within the professional field you are pursuing, while taking into account other factors such as language, safety, and global orientation.
Internships in Central America
Central America is a developing region, marked by both the burdens of poverty and the promises of future growth. Many internships abroad in Central America are accordingly in the area of community and infrastructural development. Prospective interns who are interested in education, healthcare, architecture, and urban planning for example, can find many opportunities to get hands on experience in Central America.
Environmentalism is also a popular area for internships, as Central America is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet and is under constant threat from deforestation and habitat destruction. Forward-thinkers who are passionate about green technology, activism, and preservation efforts will have the opportunity to make a change for the better by interning abroad in Central America. Not to mention nature lovers will be thrilled by the beauty of their wild surroundings!
Many internship programs will offer you the additional option of enrolling in Spanish language courses while abroad too, a great way to advance your technical skill-set while practicing in work and everyday conversation. Generally internships last from two to six months based on individual availability. Some offer academic credit as well, so be sure to check with your home school about what units might transfer over.
Salary & Costs
Internships can be paid or unpaid, depending on the industry you are working in. Generally internships for NGOs and nonprofits go unpaid. It’s the nature of the game.
Central America is an affordable place to intern abroad coming from the developed world, so on-the-ground costs should not be of too much concern. Necessities such as food and transportation will be cheap, but items that might be considered luxuries (such as souvenirs and some clothing) might be relatively more expensive.
Accommodation & Visas
Many interns opt to live in a homestay while working abroad, and this is a great way to immerse yourself fully in the local culture while gaining additional practice speaking Spanish. Homestays might not be available for every position however, and instead you might find yourself living in an apartment or in group housing with other project members. Take available accommodations into account when looking for the perfect program!
The Central American countries also differ in their visa policies, so this is an additional factor to sort out with your internship provider in the early stages of the process. For visa information about the specific country where you are interning abroad, you can check out our Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Learn a Language. Interning abroad in Central America is a great opportunity to put some serious work into your Spanish language acquisition. In work, at home, in your free time – whenever and wherever you get the chance, try practice your communication skills!
Make an Impact. As a developing region, Central America can benefit from exposure in the international community. Whether you are interning for an NGO in rural Costa Rica or a multinational corporation in Guatemala City, you can help boost the region’s economy and standard of living.
Have Fun. The most important point comes last. Interning abroad in Central America will be a terrific adventure, and one that you will never forget! You will make friends from all over the world, have unbelievable experiences, and challenge yourself adapting to a different culture.