Students gain perspective from visit to Nicaragua

Pamela Bump

Equinox Staff


Julie Conlon

Student Life Editor


Emily Winskowicz did not sleep the first night she spent in Nicaragua.

“I couldn’t sleep at all the first night because I was so culture shocked,” she said. Winskowicz explored Nicaragua for two weeks this past summer alongside classmates from the Keene State College Honors Program.
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The trip through Nicaragua was packed with activites, according to KSC junior Alexandra Kirk.

“We went on a lot of trips, like to the tropical rainforest. That was awesome. We also just kind of explored,” Kirk said.
Velvet Young, a junior, said one of her favorite activities was an exhibition through the rainforest. “We went to La Selva Negra–It was like a jungle,” Young shared, “We went hiking in there. We learned about all sorts of plants and we saw howler monkeys in the trees. We saw sloths. It was really cool.”

While traveling in Nicaragua, students took part in a three-night home stay where they stayed with the families of a farming community.
Young shared a little about her home stay experience and said, “My favorite part about it was just being immersed in the home stay. It was just so different. Living with the family, speaking with them and seeing how they lived was so incredibly different from the way we live. They would get up and milk cows at five in the morning and that’s their job, raising the cows and the chickens,” Young said.
Krista Sullivan, another junior, added to Young’s comments and said, “We definitely gained a relationship with the families that we were staying with. They welcomed us into their homes. We did a lot of playing and dancing and non-verbal ways of interacting that were really fun.”
Immersing themselves in culture through their home stays was not the only chance students had to explore. The group also worked with various organizations in Nicaragua.

Young said, “We were working with an organization called ProNica. ProNica funds things like Las Mujeres en Accion, which means Women in Action. It’s a maternity house that houses women when they’re pregnant and feeds them and boards them for free.”

Sullivan said, “We visited a lot of community programs while we were there. A lot of Non-Governmental Organizations and women’s shelters. We learned a ton.” Young said they also went to health centers which prepared them for their trip to La Chureca, an expedition that proved to impact every student on the trip.

Young explained, “We went to La Chureca, which is the big dump in the capital city of Managua. It was one of the poorest parts of Nicaragua. The streets were filled with trash. There were stray animals everywhere. There were, for lack of better words, sketchy people. I just remember sitting on the bus we were traveling on, just feeling scared on the bus. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. I don’t know what could happen.’ I didn’t prepare myself for it. Some parts of me pictured going to Nicaragua as just traveling. You just don’t consider the reality of the situation.”
Young continued, “There were children walking around with no clothes, no shoes, just covered in dirt. They had children as young as four, five and six years old going out with their parents every day picking up garbage to make a living for themselves. It’s just crazy.”

Kirk added, “It was just really eye opening. I mean, there were children there, so we ended up playing with them, which was really nice, but at the same time it was hard to face.”
Margaret Walsh, director of the Honors Program, organized the trip to Niceragua and went on the trip. Walsh said the sights of La Chureca were hard to take in. “I find that my senses were overcome. There’s no escaping the smell of garbage and the visual assault. The fact that human beings live in a garbage dump is appalling and seeing a school that was built to educate children in a place where there parents make a living was remarkable,” she said.

Winskowicz added, “It really made me think of where our trash goes. We throw it away and sometimes act like it disappears, but it all goes somewhere. It was also surprising how easily we communicated. I learned that the human spirit is just so universal.”

Students said that the experience they had with La Chureca remains the most powerful, and that through that experience they learned how the strength of the “human spirit” and generosity of Nicaragua’s people was unlike any other place they had traveled to. Students attributed this experience to a newly gained perspectives on America.

Kirk said, “I just learned a lot about the U.S. government that really pissed me off. We have exploited that country for everything that they have. And yet, we walk down the streets in that place and they just don’t hold it against us. It just makes us think about what our government does and how they hide it from us,” Kirk said.
Kirk explained the strength of the people by using an example of a man the students spoke to in Nicaragua.

“We went to an organic coffee farm and the owner told us of how people had been trying to take his land from him. He was telling us how important it was to fight for what you have and tell the truth. That will help you overcome anything. Just being truthful and non-violent. His coffee was delicious too,” Kirk said.
Walsh said returning from the trip, she has hopes for what her students would take away.

“I want the students to examine their own cultural perspectives and the privileges they have received being educated in the US. There are extremely creative passionate people in Nicaragua that are looking extremely hard to address the challenges that they and their children and their co-workers face in Nicaragua. Meeting these people gives the students a sense of solidarity and how we are living on the same planet.”
Sullivan stated, “For a country having so little resource at their disposal, they gave up a lot to make us feel welcome.”

Sullivan added, “I’m able to see things on a more global scale, and how you can be happier having less in your life.»

Sullivan said she learned a lot from the people in Nicaragua.

“You have more in common with people than you realize. When we were at the home stay; we being English speaking white people or ‘Gringos’ as they called us, we just played a big game of kick-ball in the middle of the field with older kids and younger kids who were Spanish speaking. We were able to just bridge that gap and play. It was fun,” Sullivan said.
Walsh, concluded, “It’s always hard to say goodbye.”


Pamela Bump can be contacted at


Julie Conlon can be contacted at   


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