In just a ten-day span, the students learned about Nicaraguan history and modern politics, visited a center for homeless children, built solar cell phone chargers, installed solar panels on a home, swam in a volcanic crater lake, and stayed with families in a village without running water.
“Global Immersion Programs are more than recreational tours. They are carefully crafted education experiences that engage students with communities much different from their own, stretch their comfort zones, and expand their world views,” said trip leader and Director of Hun’s Global Engagement Programs Pauline McKean.
At the Center for Global Education in Managua, the students learned about Nicaraguan history and modern politics. They heard presentations about the Sandinista revolution and the Contra war that followed. They travelled to the University of Central America and met with a graduate student who wrote her thesis about the Nicaraguan Literacy Crusades, which greatly reduced illiteracy in post-revolution Nicaragua.
They also travelled through rural areas and met with people who have experienced social issues such as homelessness, gender-based violence, and drug addiction.
“Having our education straight from organizations and people who are victims of these problems was great, because you hear about things like starvation and rape and violence, but you don’t always get to have a one-on-one conversation with the people who are impacted. But we did, and it was crazy how much knowledge they have about how to really solve these problems,” Ava Taddeo ’19 said.
During a three-day homestay in a rural village, students had the opportunity to flex their engineering muscles by building solar-powered cellphone chargers. They built two smoke-free cooking stove called a fogón and installed solar panels on the roof of a family home. The students were able to be there when the family flipped the switch and turned on the lights for the first time.
“I’m interested in engineering, and so it’s an indescribable feeling when something so small on your part, something so small to do, made the biggest difference to them. That was their first night with electricity, which is such a crazy, weird concept,” said MC Shea ‘19.
The students also met with residents of Casa Alianza, a center for homeless youth, many of whom struggle with drug addiction, have run away from abusive families, or who were victims of human trafficking.
“This one girl was always smiling and was the sweetest girl, and I thought to myself, ‘What happened that you’re here, because you’re an amazing person.’ Despite the fact that something horrible happened to her, she was so happy to be there,” Kobi Iheoma ’19 said.
The students agreed that their perceptions of developing nations had changed as a result of their experiences in Nicaragua, and resolved to not take the comforts in their own lives for granted.
“My parents have taught us how we should be appreciative, but I was never truly brought back by it. When I think about [countries like Nicaragua], I don’t necessarily think they’re thriving or improving. But they are, and they’re smarter than I’ve given them credit for, and they are so much more resourceful than I would have imagined,” Lauren Borgstrom ’20 said.