Creating the Extraordinary Student Experience

  • Jake at Machu Piccu Jake at Machu Piccu
  • Jake in  Antigua, Guatemala Jake in Antigua, Guatemala
  • Jake's apartment view on the island of Flores Jake's apartment view on the island of Flores
  • Jake's view of Rainbow Mountain in Peru Jake's view of Rainbow Mountain in Peru

Student Staff Highlight: Guatemala

October 26, 2018

This past summer, one of our student staff members, Jake Humphrey, travelled to Central and South America. In conjunction with faculty member Brent Sohngen in the department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics; Jake travelled to Guatemala for the month of June to conduct research on the valuation of eco-tourism in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the northern Petén department. Alongside three other student researchers, Jake effectively interviewed over 1,000 tourists to learn their sustainability preferences about tourism industries in the department.


The Petén department in Guatemala is rich with wildlife and is home to the world’s largest Mayan ruins. In the northeast corridor of the department sits the famous Tikal National Park, which was once the capital of the great Mayan empire. The area is teeming with temples, burial sites, and other evidence of past civilization. With its rich history and profound biodiversity, the area attracts thousands of tourists each year that come to enjoy the natural awe of the Guatemalan landscape. As the area around the reserve is becoming a more popular tourist destination, Jake and his team were interested in learning the sustainability preferences of tourists as a means of advising institutions when moving forward with the development of the area.


While conducting research in the Petén, Jake and his colleagues lived on a small island in the middle of a lake in the department. The island is less than a mile in circumference, and is named Flores (Spanish for “flowers”). Flores is a vibrant community and has been labelled as the tourism capital of the department, which is why Jake and his team were stationed there.


After spending the month in Guatemala, Jake was able to continue his travels to Peru and Chile for the rest of the summer. Travelling through Peru and Chile for three weeks, Jake was able to experience some of the amazing cultures and communities of South America. Barring some minor hiccups along the road, Jake successfully endeavored the famous Rainbow Mountains of Peru (La Montaña de los Siete Colores) and completed a four day trek to Machu Picchu.


While travelling this past summer, Jake was able to have the experience of a lifetime and will never forget the amazing people and cultures that he encountered along the way.


To learn more about study abroad trips, click here! (link to