Pop Wuj - Spanish School Guatemala (pronounced "pope-woo"), set in the Highlands of Guatemala, is a collectively owned and operated Spanish language school that has been serving an international crowd of students since our immersion program began in 1992. It takes its name from the title of the great epic saga of the Maya-K’iché people, Pop Wuj (The Book of Time). Through a unique mix of intensive Spanish language study and community development, students come to a better understanding of the political, social, and cultural realities of Guatemala, while contributing to a better way of life for families in the rural areas surrounding Quetzaltenango (Xela). Working side by side with their teachers and community members, students have found themselves moved and inspired by their experiences here at Pop Wuj both in the classroom and in the community environments.
Association Pop Wuj - Spanish School Guatemala is a Guatemalan nonprofit organization. After the teachers and staff draw a modest wage and take care of expenses, the remaining income is dedicated to financing the thriving rural development projects and educational endeavors that the school has undertaken and nurtured over the past 24 years. If you choose to study with us, the money you spend will do more than teach you Spanish, it will help relieve a little of the severe poverty in which so many Guatemalans are now forced to live. If you are interested (and the vast majority of our students are), you will also have the chance to work directly on the volunteer projects
, side by side with the beneficiaries of the projects. For more information on these community development projects and how to get involved please visit our Projects Blog
which is regularly updated by students and volunteers at the Spanish school.
Most important among these youth community development projects is Pop Wuj's scholarship program
for local kids. Once wholly endowed by our student's tuition, the scholarships are now subsidized by private donations from previous students and other supporters. Through these contributions, Pop Wuj currently provides critical financial assistance to approximately 125 Guatemalan students. Many of our scholarship recipients are from rural areas where associated education costs would prohibit the completion of their education.
Medical Spanish Program
Since June 2002, Pop Wuj has offered a Medical Spanish Program for medical students, providers, public health professionals, and other healthcare practitioners (e.g., doctors, nurses, paramedics). For years we have attracted a growing number of healthcare students and professionals who would like to learn Medical Spanish. The Medical Spanish Program provides health and medical education as well as clinical experience in Guatemala.
One of the most important goals of Pop Wuj’s Medical Spanish Program is to increase students’ cultural competency in addition to their Spanish language skills. To deliver healthcare in a compassionate way, with the knowledge of the culture and history of the population one works with, is an essential value to Pop Wuj’s vision of the Medical Spanish Program.
When Is It Offered?
This special program is offered all year round, beginning the first and third Monday of each month and continues for at least four weeks.
What You Can Expect
There are five core components to our program:
4 Hour daily - One-on-One Spanish classes with supplemental curriculum for medical Spanish
3-5 Hours a day, 3-4 days/week - Participation in the Medical Spanish Program (Clinical experience suitable for elective rotation)
Lectures targeting cultural competencies during the first week in addition to the One-on-One Spanish Instruction
Homestay with a Guatemalan family in a private room with three meals a day, safe drinking water and a hot shower
Spanish School Activities (except transportation / entrance fees)
Spanish Medical Terminology
The program’s foundation is the one-on-one classroom setting. The goal of the classroom lessons is to give every student the tools (Medical Spanish Terms) necessary to take a history and perform a physical examination in Spanish or address simple healthcare needs. Outside the classroom, students have access to medical conferences (topics ranging from the Guatemalan healthcare system to endemic diseases to local, non-traditional medicines), and hands-on clinical volunteer experience. Additionally, medical students, nurses, and doctors studying at Pop Wuj can receive further history and physical tutoring from Guatemalan medical students and residents. The clinical experience in the Pop Wuj Clinic is suitable for an elective rotation for medicine students and residents. Many schools and hospitals will give credits for this elective rotation. Pop Wuj itself does not extend credit to students.
The way the program is structured is all students have four hours a day of individualized language instruction “One-on-One Spanish” and participate in the Medical Spanish Program the other 2-5 hours a day, four days per week. During the beginning of the student’s stay, the Medical Spanish Program
consists of the supplemental curriculum including cultural competency lectures. We feel it is important that patients encounter compassion and understanding, in accordance to their own traditional beliefs and value systems, which every human being deserves. For this reason, Pop Wuj offers cultural competency lectures in the first week. Topics include historical, social-cultural, and economic information in relation to healthcare delivery and issues in Guatemala. This information complements what is learned in the classroom and clinical placement. As mentioned before, cultural competency is an important part of the mission of Pop Wuj—to be dedicated to the respect and understanding of the beliefs, values, and traditions that form the foundation and survival of the people of Guatemala.
For participants, the medical program gives the opportunity for a better understanding of the origin, development, treatment, and cultural characteristics of certain illnesses. Participants are encouraged to select and research a health topic of interest, develop an essay, and, toward the end of the program, present their work to other participants in a round-table discussion atmosphere. Frequently, program participants have used these essays to give health education presentations to patients who wait their turn in a clinic waiting room or beneficiaries of other Pop Wuj community development projects. This is a significant part of preventative medicine and education for many community members. These presentations and round-table discussions are given completely in Spanish and provide program participants of all levels the opportunity to demonstrate their progress.
As the student’s Spanish language ability becomes more proficient, patient interactions become more frequent. This is determined by the student, the teacher, and the clinic director. By the end of the student’s stay, much of his/her participation in the Medical Spanish Program consists of clinical activity. Clinical activity begins the second week of the program and is contingent upon participation in the supplemental curriculum.
It is important that participants in the Medical Spanish program understand that it will be difficult to have time for activities. It is possible to travel on the weekend, however the week is well structured with classes and activities. In addition, it will be a different experience from those enrolled in the Regular Spanish Immersion Course with additional hours for clinic time, lectures, and mobile clinics.
Many medical students and residents choose the Medical Spanish Program as an elective rotation. For an elective rotation most medical schools and hospitals mandate a placement of at least one month in a medical clinic away or abroad from their home institution in order to award credits. Although Pop Wuj does not extend credit, we can provide documentation upon your completion of the Medical Spanish Program. Pop Wuj staff can complete evaluation forms regarding your volunteer work and studies at Pop Wuj. Please be sure to bring any required paperwork with you!
The Pop Wuj Clinic
Staffed by local doctors, the clinic will serve scholarship students
, children and youth at the Family Support Center
, families in our Safe Stove Project
, Pop Wuj teachers and host families, and the local public. It will also be a place for visiting doctors, practitioners of other health-related disciplines, and groups of students from around the world to attend to patients while improving their own medical Spanish skills. Based on years of work in Xela and the rural areas that surround the city, Pop Wuj teachers believe that lack of access to healthcare is one of the most pressing problems in present-day Guatemala. The Pop Wuj Clinic exists to address that need. Since its opening, the Pop Wuj clinic has opened its doors to students and healthcare professionals interested in helping in this process with donations of time, ideas, money or/and equipment!
Note: The Medical, Social, and Spanish for Teachers programs include all that the Spanish Immersion Course consists of in addition to the unique focus that each of these specialized programs offers their participants.
$300 USD per Week
One time registration fee $150 USD
The cost of the Medical Spanish Program and its registration fee is higher than that of the Spanish Immersion Program. Part of the extra money serves to offset the additional costs of medical conferences, materials, and scheduling. The remainder is put into a fund supporting the Pop Wuj Medical Clinic.
A minimum time commitment of four weeks is required
For more information on the Pop Wuj Medical Program, please contact:
Jefferson Student Reports/Journals - Pop Wuj
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