Puente Inka (18) retouched.jpg

Study Mission to South America Winter 2020

Apply Online
Click here to find the application process to attend a Study Mission in 2020.
Final SMSA route gif
More info
Contact us
Team Handbook
Program expectations

So what is it?

The Study Mission Team will be a college classroom helping communities and studying in some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world.

The team will spend eight weeks traveling to four countries: PUERTO RICO (USA), BOLIVIA, PERU, and GUATEMALA. In each location, the team will serve with our partner organizations to help improve the community by doing hurricane relief, poverty assistance, and green construction projects for education. While there, the team will study a full semester curriculum (fifteen hours) consisting of Latino history & literature, Spanish language, Rhetoric, and Ecology. The program lasts twelve weeks: two online, eight in travel, and two more afterwards online. One fee, less than the average cost of tuition for a four-year university semester, covers lodging, transportation, food, textbooks, and admission to the sites we will be visiting.

What will the team be doing?

  • Study Spanish Colonialism and history in the ruins of Old San Juan. Finish your reading assignment on a Caribbean beach where pirates once sailed.

  • Practice your Spanish buying fresh fruit at the market in a 700-year-old Incan city.

  • Study unique biosystems on a volcano, and compare it to the ecosystems of the jungle and rainforest, from the week before.

  • Use your rhetorical lessons to construct a policy argument in favor of local concerns over sustainable farming practices, after helping build a new shed on such a farm.

  • Explore Incan, Quechuan, Mayan, and Spanish ruins, and use them to explain how they provide national identity in opposition to major political structures.

  • There will be time built in to visit Lake Titicaca and the Isle del Sol, the historic city of Cuzco, and Macchu Picchu.

Make a difference. Be part of our team.

La Paz (30) (retouched).jpg

The Study Missions

are innovative, rigorous programs for students who are dedicated to serious study and to changing their ideas about the world. Come join us and see how far the road will take you.

La Paz, Bolivia

What do I need to do?

Apply. The team is limited to fifteen students: admission will be based on student preparedness and enthusiasm for working as part of a team, serving others, and studying.

Once you are admitted, the team professor will have instructions about applying for visas, enrolling, packing, and meeting online before departure.

Afterwards, you will have two weeks to finalize your assignments, turn them in, and then return to your normally programmed studies.

Course work? How does that work?

Riverwell has a unique relationship with Saint Louis University. You will be enrolled in five courses through their oversight. The courses will be intro level history, literature, rhetoric, Spanish language, and ecology. They are all designated as general education courses to assist you in transferring them and using them in your own course of study.

The team professor has an integrated syllabus, meaning that while students will register in five classes, we will group and approach them into three: LATINO HISTORY & LITERATURE, SPANISH LANGUAGE & RHETORIC, and ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS. We will have classes in various locations: at the bunkhouses, on site in ruins, and in natural settings (beaches, jungles, volcanoes), assisted by a virtual classroom of tablets + e-textbooks.

After the courses conclude, you should be able to transfer the credits to your home university. (*Please be welcome to contact Riverwell prior to applying for more information on transferring credits.)

How do I know if I qualify?

The program is designed for university freshmen and sophomores, precisely because they are usually still in the process of completing general education requirements. If you are not a freshman or sophomore and would still like to attend, please be welcome to apply.

Teammembers need to have some familiarity with geography and with the Spanish language. If you have not studied Spanish at all, please be aware that the Spanish course will be too advanced (it is equivalent to third term Spanish). You may still be able to participate, but assignments requiring encounters in the community may be difficult.

You do not need to be enrolled in a university to participate. Gap year students are encouraged to apply.

Students who are finished or decided to forego university and do not wish college credit are welcome to apply. They will still be expected to participate fully in classroom activities and assignments. There is no tuition modification for not enrolling in college credit.

Currently the program does not solicit chaperone or graduate assistant teammembers.

Isla del Sol (194) (retouched).jpg

Of course, you’ll have to leave behind winter

to go to the Caribbean beach, and to climb volcanoes and explore ruins and hear local music and taste local foods.

The team professor on the Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia.

Is it safe to travel outside the US?

(Ignoring the often overlooked fact that Puerto Rico is a part of the United States…) The short answer is yes. But it is more complicated.

We are intentionally not traveling to countries that present significant risks of safety. But this is not Disneyland: we will be walking into underdeveloped areas where there are real risks. The team professors have traveled extensively, and to these countries, and will be tasked with helping you stay safe. You will, however, need to understand there are risks.

If you are a light-skinned female traveler, you will find some additional hurdles because you will stand out more in some very macho societies. For this reason, all teammembers are required to agree to specific rules and regulations regarding behavior and decisions outside of camp. If you like to rebel against authority, this may not be the trip for you.

But if you stick to the rules, and use common sense, then yes, you should have a fantastic experience without any dangerous experiences.

Is there assistance for tuition?

Not yet. We are working on it. If you are unsure about affording the trip, please contact us and see if we have any opportunities to help.


These details are still being worked out, but it appears we should be working in Vieques, Puerto Rico; Viachi, Bolivia; Pacaipampa District, Peru; and San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala.

The dates for the trip will be from January 18, 2020 to March 14. Pre-departure classes begin January 6. Final assignments are due March 27.

Teammembers will be responsible for transport to San Juan and from Guatemala City at the start and conclusion of the program.

*This information may change over the next several months as arrangements are finalized with partner programs.

Riverwell Institute of Arts & Languages is a 501(c)3 designated educational non-profit dedicated to presenting new innovative programs of university instruction.