In a very poor but picturesque region of Guatemala, Seth Amos spent the summer working to help a town to develop an economic growth strategy.
Through Penn Abroad’s International Internship Program, Amos spent 10 weeks in San Juan la Laguna in the Sololá district of western Guatemala working at Ati’t Ala’, a non-governmental organization. His task was to help develop a plan to increase tourism to spur economic growth in San Juan.
Amos, a senior majoring in economics and Hispanic studies, says the process was very labor intensive. He conducted field work and gathered information for the group. In interviews with tourists, he asked about their perceptions of San Juan and how San Juan compared to other Guatemalan destinations.
“For the majority of time, I was the only one who spoke English and the only one who could carry out the survey,” says Amos.
Amos also reviewed the financial statements of local businesses to find ways to reduce costs and increase profits.
In addition, he spent time visiting nearby towns in and around Lake Atitlán to run a comparative analysis of attractions that San Juan didn’t offer in order to be able to consider new projects and emphasize those that were unique and marketable to the town.
Amos says he wanted to make sure his recommendations for the town would reflect the true nature of San Juan and not what he calls “cultural exports” from other areas.
“My aim was for San Juan to continue preserving its local culture, in addition to that of its Mayan predecessors, rather than creating an artificial representation,” says Amos. “On the one hand I was trying to preserve their local culture but on the other hand modernize to increase revenues from tourists.”
During his free time, Amos had the chance to enjoy the beauty of the region. A horseback tour of the area reminded him of riding through the forest near his hometown of Tulsa.
“More than anything, the incredible natural beauty of Guatemala and Lake Atitlán continued to wow me,” says Amos. “At the beginning, I thought I would get used to the environment, but, every time I looked at the lake, my breath was taken away.”
Amos’ opportunity to travel abroad and to enrich his Penn experience with diverse cultural and international exposure is indicative of the Penn Compact 2020 goal of engaging globally.
The experience in Guatemala has exposed Amos to many possibilities to consider for his life after he graduates. Now, as one possibility, he’s considering further work in international development and the tourism industry.