December 10, 2018

World as Our Classroom GLOBAL: Nicaragua Cultural Immersion


World as Our Classroom GLOBAL: Nicaragua Cultural Immersion DATE: 02-04-2015

February 3, 2015- Along with teacher-leaders Katie Hluchyj, Ben Gardner and Doug Anton, a group of sixteen students ventured to Nicaragua on a service-learning trip in November, 2014, through a nonprofit called Bridges to Community. The group stayed in the home of one host family, Don Augusto, a community leader in Rosa Grande. They worked in the community to build stoves and latrines, as well as spending some of their days in classrooms with students ranging in ages 5-15 years old.

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One of the students, Mateo Ellerson (pictured, top right) has created a video, documenting their experience, which you can watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmMOe8Xx9kI

I spoke with the students upon their return and got to hear their stories, which they related enthusiastically. They were fascinated by how quickly they had acclimated to the foreign world that they had been tossed into, but reported a shared experience of culture shock upon their return home, realizing just how much they had learned during their time away. They spoke of this “eye-opening” experience and marveled at “all the things that we take for granted.” As a case in point, Morgan Furlong explained that “nothing was ever wasted: we used crumbled parts to make a new stove.” Adding on, a peer shared that, “the classrooms are small and sparse, but the kids love being there and love learning.”

Heather Illingworth said that it was humbling to meet people in a third-world environment who did not have toilets, yet seemed eternally optimistic and ready to work hard at whatever task they pursued. She said it changed her idea of how she might represent herself as an American traveling in the future.

Ryan Ferland described the trip as a “blessing and life-changing.” He explained that prior to Nicaragua, his plan was to pursue sports medicine in college next year, but he now questioned this path, realizing that he can do even more to make a positive change in the world; helping athletes is wonderful, but is it enough?

Another student countered that this experienced validated her perspectives on the possibilities of her college studies as they will help her to realize a dream of working for an NPO as she wants to help others in her professional career.

This trip to Nicaragua follows on the heels of a successful service-learning trip to the Dominican Republic that Spanish teacher, Katie Hluchyj led in 2012. Inspired by her own travel and service-learning trips in college. Her plan is to continue the Spanish Immersion and Service Learning Project with a trip through Bridges to Nicaragua every two years. 

Superintendent, Tom DeBalsi, visited the group to learn about their experiences and asked if the School Board should continue to approve field trips to foreign countries, “Was it worth all the money and missing a week of classes?”

A resounding, “YES! It is definitely worth it! I wish we could’ve stayed longer! I learned more in my two weeks in Nicaragua than any other class could teach because I LIVED it-- that’s worth the whole experience.” As an outside observer, it is evident that these 1st world students had an invaluable experience in their 3rd world cultural immersion, one that they will carry with them as they venture forth in their academic and professional futures.

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Team Nicaragua: Immersion Excursion 2014

Back Row: Ryan Ferland, Kristen Davis, Riley Strawbridge, Heather Illingworth, Taylor Wilson, Doug Anton, Ethan Scribner, Carolin Knight, Emma Bergeron, Ben Gardner, Amanda Dombroski

Front Row: Mateo Ellerson, Morgan Furlong, Rachel Seaver, Connor Brooks, Esme Cole, Mykayla O’Brien, Katie Hluchyj, Mateo Gray


-Alexis Nelson