Puerto Rico

Debt, economy, and statehood

Trip Details

Registration Deadline

October 25, 2019


Puerto Rico

Dates of Travel

March 7 – March 14, 2020

Cost of trip


A long history of U.S. policies have negatively affected the economy and health of the people of Puerto Rico: trade policies which increase shipping costs to prohibitive levels, making the cost of living in San Juan comparable to cities like Miami and Atlanta; utilizing the islands of Puerto Rico as a bombing range for the U.S. Navy; having no right to vote and no representation in Congress certainly shuts their voice out of conversations and decisions that affect them deeply. Today, the U.S. territory finds itself with an unsolvable debt crisis ($72 billion) and 41% of its people living below the poverty line. The devastating hurricane season of 2017 added significantly more challenges to the people of Puerto Rico.

As Puerto Rico’s status as a territory with no representation in Congress is a factor in these challenges, the debate over status has become more urgent. There have been two status referendum votes in recent years, giving Puerto Ricans the chance to voice their preference for statehood, maintaining territory status, or seeking independence from the U.S. Both of these referenda have had their controversies, with 97% voting for statehood in 2017, but that vote being tarnished by boycotts and a very low turnout (22%).

This immersion project will allow participants to meet with university professors, students, and political parties to hear the many perspectives of the debate over statehood and independence. They will visit communities and learn about innovative ways Puerto Ricans are pulling together to confront the economic challenges faced by the island. There will be a day trip to the island of Vieques, which the U.S. Navy used as a testing ground for munitions for decades. Throughout the trip, participants will immerse themselves in the culture and history of Puerto Rico, learning from its people, and coming to a better understanding of the challenges they face.

Sample Itinerary

Day Activities
Day 1: Travel to San Juan
Day 2: Toro Negro, Amigos del Bosque
Governor's Mansion, La Fortaleza La Terraza de Bonanza
Day 4: PPD, Popular Democratic Party Walking Tour of Old San Juan
Day 5: San Salvador community in Caguas Roundtable, Transition to Statehood, Independence And Free Association
Day 6: Day tour, Pinones, Loiza COPI and Bomba dance lesson
Day 7: Farmer’s Market guided tour
Day 8: Travel back to Gettysburg

About the Program

Immersion Projects are off-campus, educational opportunities at sites in the United States and abroad which take place over Winter Break, Spring Break, and in May. Students spend the weeks prior to travel learning about the community and its history. Students then travel to sites ranging from Nicaragua to Morocco and from Alabama to New York City, where they immerse themselves in a the community. Each project seeks to foster a dialogue between the students and the host community around issues of social justice. By working alongside community leaders and sharing their stories, students learn about themselves and the world. Students find Immersion Projects to be exciting and powerful educational experiences. Immersion Projects are open to all Gettysburg College students. Occasionally, persons from off-campus participate. Participants must be sixteen years of age or older. Students must be in good disciplinary standing (no more than 5 points and not on academic probation) in order to participate on an Immersion Project. Each participant must agree to full participation in their chosen project by attending all pre-trip meetings, completing required paperwork and preparatory assignments (such as readings, videos, other activities), behaving in an appropriate manner at all times, participating in group reflection, and contributing to the group follow-up project.

Application and Payment

Registration opens September 23, 2019 and closes October 25, 2019 at 4:00PM. A $100 non-refundable deposit is due at time of registration. First half of payment is due Friday, November 12, 2019 by 4:00PM. Final payment is due Friday, January 24, 2020 by 4:00PM.

Financial Aid

Scholarships are available to help offset the cost of an Immersion Project. Read carefully the criteria for financial awards and follow directions for completing the application. For consideration, complete the Financial Award Application and email it to Immersion_Projects@gettysburg.edu. See application for detailed information. Application Deadline: October 25, 2019 by 4:00PM.

Mandatory Orientation Session

All Winter project participants are required to attend a mandatory orientation session held on early November. Email reminders will be sent to participants. Participants will meet other project members, receive important paperwork, and discuss requirements and goals of Immersion Projects.

Medical Evacuation and Repatriation Insurance

All Gettysburg College students traveling on an Immersion Project are covered under the College's medical evacuation and repatriation travel insurance. This insurance does not replace the student's primary insurance policy, but will cover certain emergency services when traveling, such as the need for evacuation. Students and parents are welcome to examine the details of the policy.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

The Center for Public Service will register each student traveling internationally on an Immersion Project in the STEP Program. This program is a free service provided by the U.S. government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP provides users with travel warnings and alerts, and allows users to receive routine information from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Withdraw from Project

The $100 deposit required at the time of registration is non-refundable should the participant decide to withdraw from the project. In addition, the participant is responsible for paying for all expenses incurred on their behalf at the time of the withdrawal. For example, if airline tickets have been purchased by the time of withdrawal, participant will be responsible for the cost of the ticket, as well as any other pre-paid expenses.

The Center for Public Service reserves the right to remove a participant prior to departure for reasons of, but not limited to, failure to make project payments in a timely manner, financial debt to the College, a history of judicial violations, failure to complete required participant forms (such as release and health forms), failure to attend mandatory Orientation Session and/or group meetings. The Center for Public Service reserves the right to send a participant home during the project (at the participant's expense) for reasons of, but not limited to, violations of College policy, the use of alcohol or illegal drugs, disrespect toward site community or group members, or medical/psychological emergencies.

Contact Us

Email cps@gettysburg.edu or call 717-337-6490.