FAQ

Read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about AMIGOS and our programs. If you still have questions, please send us a chat message, email, or call us at 800-231-7796.

Amigos de las Américas (AMIGOS) is a nonprofit international youth development organization with over 53 years of experience providing immersive, independent leadership experiences for students age 13 – 25.

We offer programs ranging from 2 weeks to 9 months. Learn more about our programs here.

AMIGOS is governed by an international board of directors.  Our day to day operations are managed by the staff at the AMIGOS headquarters in Houston, Texas, and other locations in the US and Latin America. AMIGOS meets the criteria for exchange programs set by the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel and is a member of the International Volunteer Programs Association and Inter-Action, and is accredited by the American Gap Association. AMIGOS has a network of more than 30 partner agencies that work in community development and support the design of our programs throughout the region of the Americas.

Approximately 80% of each dollar raised by AMIGOS goes directly to cover the cost of our programs. Program expenses include training materials and workshops, international travel, supervision of participants, a 24-hour emergency support system all year long, planning and management of the projects, and supplies for participants’ community service activities. Host communities in Latin America contribute the food and lodging for AMIGOS participants. The other 20% covers overhead costs of the organization such as insurance, telephone, and other expenses.

In 1965, a 29-year-old youth director from Houston, Texas, named Guy Bevil, led a team of teenagers into rural Honduras to fight a growing polio epidemic. Serving communities in remote areas of the country, this group of 181 youth and 36 adults helped protect thousands of people from the crippling disease and established friendships that crossed borders. This service had a positive impact on the lives of these young people, and as a result, they returned more mature, culturally aware, and inspired to continue serving communities at home and abroad. AMIGOS has grown and evolved since that first year, operating programs in 17 countries throughout the region during the last 50 years.

AMIGOS is an industry leader in health and safety management. Our staff is prepared to help you with any situation that may arise. All participants receive support from local staff teams and a professional 24-hour on-call emergency team of travel, medical and mental health specialists. AMIGOS also has an established network of vetted local medical clinics and hospitals throughout the region. Click here to learn more about our safety protocol.

There are two ways to apply to AMIGOS.

AMIGOS Chapters accept applications for high school and college students participating in Summer Programs. Chapters are led by a volunteer board of directors who coordinate participant recruitment, group fundraising, and training. Chapters provide a support system for participants and their families before and after the summer. Joining AMIGOS through a chapter means you participate in training and fundraising events in your hometown prior to departure.  You can click here to see if there is a chapter near you.

The AMIGOS National Office accepts applications on a rolling basis for Gap and Summer Programs regardless of your proximity to a chapter location. Participants who join through our National Office complete training online and in a four-day workshop prior to departure. Fundraising tools are provided, but the process is more independent.

Whether you choose to join AMIGOS through the chapter or National Office path, the first step will be to fill out your online application which you can start here. You will need to complete the essay questions, project preferences form, and pay the application fee before you will be considered ready to move onto the next step of an interview. For gap program applicants, the application fee is part of the deposit paid after an interview with our Admissions staff.

Have questions? Read more here or chat with us!

There are two ways to apply to AMIGOS.

AMIGOS Chapters accept applications for high school and college students participating in Summer Programs. Chapters are led by a volunteer board of directors who coordinate participant recruitment, group fundraising, and training. Chapters provide a support system for participants and their families before and after the summer. Joining AMIGOS through a chapter means you participate in training and fundraising events in your hometown prior to departure.  You can click here to see if there is a chapter near you.

The AMIGOS National Office accepts applications on a rolling basis for Gap and Summer Programs regardless of your proximity to a chapter location. Participants who join through our National Office complete training online and in a four-day workshop prior to departure. Fundraising tools are provided, but the process is more independent.

Have questions? Read more here or chat with us!

During the application process, we are looking to see that you meet the requirements of the program you are applying for, as well as demonstrate a commitment to AMIGOS and our values.

The application fee is nonrefundable. The deposit for National Office participants is refundable, minus the $50 application fee for summer programs or the $250 application fee for gap, if you are found to be ineligible for the program during the interview or health screening processes.

AMIGOS core summer programs are comparable in price because the largest program expenses do not vary by length of project. Flights, staffing, housing, and training costs are the same for each summer program.

Program participants live with a host family in a community, experiencing day-to-day life as a local, not a tourist. This authentic cultural and language immersion enables youth to have a meaningful and unforgettable summer. Our staff visits communities and host families in advance of the participant’s arrival to determine the best eating and living arrangements. Staff members spend the night in each host community before the program begins to ensure the host families and communities are safe and are prepared to receive participants.

Projects may vary in the length of time spent with a host family, but this immersive exchange is a crucial component of our programs and is one part of what makes AMIGOS unique.

AMIGOS training curriculum prepares participants to manage projects, organize community members, solve problems, accept responsibility, and learn from others. The AMIGOS training program offers hands-on experience to gain skills necessary to succeed in our projects. AMIGOS prepares participants with pre-departure training in cultural understanding, health and safety, community development practices, leadership, and team building.

Once participants are in the field, the Project Leadership Team conducts a multi-day briefing with many types of activities. After briefing, participants go to their host community.

For the Summer Program, students must be at least 16 years old by December 31st of the year of participation, and must meet the Spanish language requirement (at least two years of high school Spanish, one year of college Spanish, or be a native speaker.) If you are between schools or have graduated from college, you are still encouraged to apply, however participants must be 22 years or younger. The College Program is the only exception for age requirements: participants in this program must be in college and must be age 18 – 22 at the start of the program.

For Discover AMIGOS, students must be 13, 14, or 15 years old at the start of the program. There is no Spanish requirement for Discover AMIGOS.

Gap Program participants must be age 17 – 25 and have graduated high school. There is no Spanish requirement for the Gap Program.

Youth Ambassadors Program requirements may vary year-to-year and country-to-country. Please check the Youth Ambassadors page for updates and application requirements.

As an AMIGOS participant, you will live with a host family in a small to medium-sized community. You will work closely with US and Latin American peers to facilitate activities for people in your community as well as gain hands-on experience supporting a community development project. Beyond the project implementation, you will improve your Spanish through true language immersion and make lifelong friends from across the Americas.

Host families are recommended by representatives of our host partner agencies and or/friends and family of our in-country staff. Our host families are thoroughly vetted and screened by the project leadership teams. Before participants arrive in Latin America, AMIGOS supervisors visit each community and stay the night in each host family’s home to make sure it will be a proper environment for the participants that summer.

Many of our host families host participants for multiple summers.

AMIGOS promotes independence and empowers each participant to get out of their comfort zone, make new relationships, improve their public speaking, and much more. Each participant is visited weekly by their supervisor and can call them to check in at any time. On a daily basis, the participants will connect with their host family, community members, and their AMIGOS partner(s).

AMIGOS partners are other participants placed in the same community. Every participant is placed with at least one partner. Participants will never be in their community without their partner – if one partner must leave community for any reason, they both go together.

Discover AMIGOS is an introductory AMIGOS experience for younger participants (age 13 -15). This two-week opportunity is a group trip led by facilitators aimed to introduce participants to global leadership and service. Participants get a taste of the full AMIGOS experience by learning about Nicaraguan culture, spending a weekend with a host family, and working alongside locals to complete a short community project.

AMIGOS values a diverse array of students from different backgrounds and skill sets. The cornerstone of the AMIGOS mission is that all young people will rise to the challenge. We are looking for students who are passionate, enthusiastic, independent, self-driven, and value cultural exchange and teamwork. We welcome students regardless of whether they have had past experiences abroad. AMIGOS is an excellent fit for young people with interest in international community development, public health, international business, political science, international economics, nonprofit management, or other social service themes.

AMIGOS does not pay commissions to any referrals for the gap year program. Neither therapeutic nor court mandated youth can participate in AMIGOS.

To serve in an AMIGOS Gap Program in Latin America, you must have completed high school and be age 17 – 25 at the start of the program. Learn more about the Gap Program requirements here.

AMIGOS provides pre-departure training and guidance for participants and parents, focusing on health and safety, as well as preparation for travel. Once in-country, AMIGOS staff provide a comprehensive orientation which covers:

  • Local history, culture, and language
  • Preparation for serving as an intern in a local community development organization during your gap year or semester
  • Project management – visioning, building a leadership team, mobilizing support for a project, evaluation
  • Country-specific health and safety procedures
  • Team building and social time with other participants in your gap cohort

The learning does not end with orientation! AMIGOS staff bring gap participants together for a weekend excursion every month to explore a new part of the country and share best practices and lessons learned.

AMIGOS gap participants are all able to access the internet, either through an internet cafe or home wifi. Therefore, most communication with your family will be up to you. AMIGOS staff members communicate with parents/guardians in situations relating to travel, health, and safety. This is outlined in detail in the parent preparation handbook your family receives as a part of the AMIGOS training program.

Host families are recommended by representatives of our host partner agencies and/or friends and family of our in-country staff. Students are placed in households based on their agency selection for the internship and their preferences for the type of family they would like to live with. Participants’ houses are located within the city where they have their internship or within a 30 minute bus ride.

Participants see each other as often as they want, but AMIGOS group activities take place every two to three weeks at minimum. These activities include training, workshops, and excursions. All participants have at least one site partner that lives in the same city.

There is no Spanish requirement for the Gap Program because the first month of the program focuses on Spanish immersion and Spanish classes. Advanced speakers may have the option to opt out of the language course at the beginning of the experience, but we recommend the course because it is tailored to their level and will help them succeed.

We encourage all AMIGOS alumni to stay connected with us! Here are some options for getting involved with AMIGOS as an alum: