I first learned about the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua from a fellow student. He had done the same trip two years before and was leading this next group. It was partially funded through the Denit Honors Program. At the time I was a sophomore, and this was during the fall semester of 2014. The actual trip was in January 2015.
The city where we stayed and did volunteer work was called Jinotega and it was about two hours outside of the capital of Managua, which is where the airport is. The first day we were given a brief overview of the area and shown where we were sleeping. We shared our living situation with some very nice ladies from Concordia University. There were also students from a few other schools there at the same time—Missouri University and Washington & Mary, if I remember correctly. The next few days were spent at the learning camp that was run by Outreach360.
Our group of UBalt students was given a classroom and a theme to teach on, and then we pretty much had fair game over what to do. We read stories with the kids in English and Spanish, sang songs, played outside—it was exhausting work, but very fun and rewarding. The kids also seemed to enjoy it. Each day we ate dinner at a local restaurant and explored the town. Towards the end of the trip, we also got to do some fun activities, including a day trip to a local coffee cooperative where we got to try authentic Nicaraguan coffee and a visit to some local pottery makers. The town of Jinotega is also home to a long series of steps that go up a mountain and lead to a very large cross at the summit. We climbed up and were able to see the view from the top—definitely a highlight of the trip.
This trip was only somewhat related to my field of study, which at the time was Government and Public Policy. I would say that visiting any other country in general fits into "international relations," which is a big part of GVPP. And of course, it was fun to learn more about the sordid political history of Nicaragua, which we were briefed on during our first night in Jinotega.
I had never done such vigorous volunteering. The week we were there was action packed—we were on our feet all day every day. It was both physically and mentally draining to keep up with these kids. However, I took from this experience a new-found appreciation for the work of volunteer organizations like Outeach360. They do superb work.
On our last day working with the kids, we asked all of them to sign a banner that said "Gracias UBalt." It was super corny, but it was really cool to see all their little signatures on it at the end—definitely a favorite memory.
Sebastio is a third-year Integrated Design major.