By Margaret Liendo
This past winter break, a group of students traveled to Nicaragua for an experience unlike any other. I had the opportunity to interview sophomore Isabel Wong who traveled down to Nicaragua with Professor Hertel, Professor Petriano and a group of St. Joseph’s students.
Margaret: How did you hear about this opportunity? Was it a class or something that interested you?
Isabel: Last year when I was a freshman, I stopped by the Nicaragua Club’s table at the club fair and I received an email about an informational session. I decided to attend, why not? The club members/facilitator talked about the trip and showed pictures. I asked how the trip cost and if I had to know Spanish to go on the trip. Although it is required to take RS 352/SPN 352 Latin America at Crossroads to go on the trip, this can serve as the Service/Experiential Learning credit and possibly the Global Perspectives Elective Credit.
M: How were you able to finance the trip? I know there are many students out there who are sometimes hesitant to participate in trips because of the cost, so what could you say to those students to change their minds?
I: The cost of the trip was $1,087, which was something that caught my attention because some study abroad trips cost around $2,000. The price covered the plane tickets and living arrangements in a hostel. Volunteering and offering services didn’t cost money. While it did cost money to buy tools and supplies when necessary, we did not need to pay out of pocket for them. The cost of the trip also covered a couple of our excursions. People brought spending money and the few activities we paid for were inexpensive. Some students paid for their trip by simply saving money at home. The cost may hold you back, but if you are interested, you should talk to Linda Lubranski at the Global Studies Office because she will do her best to work out a payment plan with you. There are also the $1,000 Freshmen Year Grant and $500 stipends to consider.
M: What was the goal for the trip and/or class?
I: The goal was to gain a better understanding of how to be and what it means to be a global citizen. After the trip, it was important to reflect and take action about how it changed us and how one can a global citizen back in our home communities.
M: What kind of service was performed and in what area?
I: We were in the town of León in the village of Sutiaba, which is the second most populated city in Nicaragua after the capital, Managua. In Sutiaba, our main project was starting an edible garden by the Annex Building of the school. Emily Rehberger, a garden teacher with Edible Gardens NYC, accompanied us on the trip and was very helpful. In addition, some students assisted in building a higher wall around the local preschool. The university students that lived in Sutiaba deserve most of the credit for setting up the garden. The local university students completed breaking ground for five plots while we had 20 SJC students working on one plot. Although we were able to finish all 3 projects and repairs for the winter, Prof. Hertel and Prof. Petriano said that we don’t always get to complete the projects ourselves. Sometimes we just start the project and the community continues or finishes them.
M: How was it interacting with different villagers and students?
I: I was able to make some new friends on the trip. It was also cool that we were able to hang out with local college students. While we were able to play, hang out and talk to people of all ages, it was nice that there were other college students. I appreciated the time we spent with them. We are able to stay in touch with many of the local students and community leaders through Facebook.
M: What’s your favorite memory from the trip?
I: There are so many. One memory is when we were in a bus with other SJC students and staff on the way to see a volcano. We were playing a bunch of different games like thumb wars and concentration. Manny’s phone was playing music through Tyler’s speakers. The music was jamming and we were kind of having a dance party on the bus. They shone the phone flashlight on me and it was my chance to bust some moves. It reminded me of College Road Trip with Raven Symone when she had the bus going with the song “Double Dutch Bus.”
Another memory was when I went to the taco place around the corner from the hostel with Christina, Megan, Erin, Kait and Katherine. We brought back the food to the hostel and sat by the pool. Megan said “Isabel, I’ll give you $20 if I can throw you in the pool.” I’m thinking, “yeah!” She pushed me in while I was still dressed because that was part of the deal. Best part was I got $20!
My other favorite memory with our group was dinner with our St. Joe’s group. Our professors asked us to say one thing about the trip that was good, bad and unexpected. Some people were honest, mentioning problems and reminiscing on great experiences. On
our last night in León, we ate at the hostel with the Nicaraguan college kids and shared our thoughts with them, which was pretty fun!
My other favorite memory was when we all went dancing with the local college kids. I am not a great dancer, but I had a very fun time. The location was packed so you could almost be sweating just standing there. I busted a lot of funny moves and we had a lot of laughs. Katherine reminded me to do the sprinkler next time!
If you would like to learn more about study abroad opportunities, make sure to visit the Office of Global Studies because an amazing experience abroad might be awaiting you!