In the summer of 2012 I was presented with the incredible opportunity to travel to Nicaragua in Central America for an entire month as part of an exchange program. I really wanted to experience a foreign country and improve my Spanish speaking skills. The program I attended was focused on forming new perspectives and broadening ones cultural horizons while improving Spanish speaking abilities at the same time.
I met the group of 25 students from around the country in Miami International Airport and everyone became instant friends. We were all really nervous and excited for the month ahead of us. When we arrived in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital city we were immediately hit by the intense heat. We spent the night in a hotel and then traveled to Granada, the city we would be living in, the next day.
When our group arrived in Granada we were welcomed by students from one of the local high schools. The students preformed a traditional dance, and after we were assigned our host families. I met my host mother and she took me to the house I would be staying at during the next four weeks. The house was located three blocks from the central square of the city and was really easy to get to. The house was nothing like houses in the U.S. The house had one floor with a big first room with a TV and computer. The next room was small and it was the dining room and kitchen which were both very simple. My room was located off of the dining room with a shower adjacent.
Every day our group would go to school at a local Nicaraguan high school. We would only attend class for two hours a day and we would just go to Spanish class. We would be in school from 8 to 10:00 am. From 10 to 12 o’ clock we would explore Granada with our group. We got to visit cool places in the city like cathedrals, bakeries, chocolate shops, restaurants, monuments, and one day we even got to make our own cigars! It was a really cool way to experience the city.
The hardest yet most rewarding part of the trip was the community service. In the afternoon after lunch, our group met up again and split up into community service groups. Before leaving for Nicaragua we signed up for a job we would want to do for the month. I signed up for an English teacher. Along with a boy in my group I was charged with the task of teaching an English class to third graders at an elementary school. Teaching English to the class was the hardest part of the trip. I had to write my own lesson plans and teach English words in Spanish. I thought the kids words that they would be able to use. For example, I taught the words for animals, numbers, objects, locations, and things in nature. It was really special and rewarding. I made a huge connection with the class and every day they would mob me with hugs when it was time for me to leave.
A major problem Nicaragua is having is the pollution. While Nicaraguans have a sewer system, they lack garbage pickup in most places so trash is thrown into the streets or dumped in the lake. Many areas of Nicaragua are very heavily polluted and it is unsafe to swim in Lake Nicaragua. Dispute this pollution we were able to see some pristine natural environments. We hiked a volcano, kayaked in the lake, trekked through the jungle, and swam in a mountain lagoon. Nicaragua’s natural world is really beautiful and it was an amazing experience throughout the whole summer.