Latin American Studies, Political Science
Program and Location
SIT Nicaragua: Revolution, Transformation and Civil Society (Managua)
Academic focus while abroad?
Politics, Social Movements, Culture of Peace
What did you accomplish academically?
In the last month of my semester abroad I conducted an Independent Study Project (ISP) on political parties in the Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua. This was an amazing experience…and an adventure! After a 6 hour cross-country bus ride and a two hour splash-tastic boat ride, I made it to the port city of Bluefields where I carried out my research. I conducted over 18 interviews with national and regional political party representatives, NGO’s, present and former regional council members, community activists, and officials from the Regional Electoral Council. Through hands-on field research I learned about the barriers to regional party growth and how the presence of national parties affected the political autonomy of the Atlantic Coast. It was awesome!
What were the strongest aspects of your program?
One of the strongest aspects of the program was the “experiential learning” component. Most of the knowledge I gained didn’t come from class readings or guest lecturers (although they were helpful), but rather through first-hand interactions with other Nicaraguans. During our program we went on three field excursions (countryside, Atlantic Coast, El Salvador) where we had the opportunity to directly immerse ourselves in the culture and daily life of people different from ourselves. It was a very powerful and memorable way to learn.
What were the most challenging aspects of your program?
One word: machismo. That was the hardest part to adjust to. I would say I received around seven to ten piropos (catcalls) daily. Most of them were innocent “hello my loves” and “hola chelas,” but nonetheless still very annoying. Another aspect that was difficult to deal with was sacrificing my independence. Because Managua isn’t exactly the safest city in the world, I had to travel with at least one other person if I ever wanted to do anything. I had to learn to rely on other people a lot.
What were your living arrangements, and how did they impact your experience?
The program arranges homestays in a working-class community that has been hosting students for over 20 years, so they definitely knew the ropes. The family I lived with owned a “pulperia” (convenience store) on their porch, which was a unique living situation to be a part of. For me, the best part of my study abroad experience was my Nicaraguan host family. They were just as crazy as I was! In between my host sister popping out behind the stairs trying to scare me, my 29 year old host brother chasing me throughout the house with his eyelids flipped inside-out, and my older 37 year old host brother putting ketchup on my door handle, there were cake fights, cracking eggs over people’s heads, and live rooster killings. It was great! Plus my host mom was a mad cook.
Suggestions for future participants?
I have three suggestions for future participants: 1. Bring light clothes because it is H.O.T. 2. Do not be afraid to get diarrhea. 3. Get ready for the time of your life!