The largest country in Central America, situated as a bridge between the North and South American continents, Nicaragua is the nexus that links together the diverse cultures and geographies present on the Central American isthmus. The from the Moorish arches of Grenada to the colonial cathedrals in Leon, to the lakeshore capital city Managua, Nicaragua's chief cities offer breathtaking architectural variety. It is here that you will learn that Nicaraguans have a unique way of playing the marimba and get in touch with the culture that inspired Ruben Dario's poems. Outside the city life, the country's rainforests offer wildlife as diverse as its buildings: tapirs, monkeys, eagles, and the resplendent quetzal can all be spotted in Nicaraguan forests. From the slopes of volcanoes to the shores of the ocean, Nicaragua's landscape allows for adventure and awe.
- Main Industries: Agriculture, particularly coffee and beef; Mining; Tourism, especially adventure and eco-tourism
- Popular Destinations: Managua, Grenada, Leon
- Cost of Living: Around $400 USD/month
- Visa: Most interns can use a tourist visa
- Fun Facts:
- The Ancient footprints of Acahualinca are 2,120 year old fossils of human footprints found in the volcanic earth near Lake Managua, in Nicaragua.
- Tourism is the second largest industry in Nicaragua, and one of the fastest growing.
- Cerro Negro volcano, located near Leon is one of the world's youngest volcanos
- Development & Human Rights: The country's poverty and tumultuous political history also challenge those with an interest in global human rights to make a difference in the lives of Nicaraguans. Those who feel called to international humanitarian work can find fulfilling and meaningful introductions to the world of international development aid through internships in Nicaragua. One of the poorest countries in the Americas, the rural communities are often under-served and in need of resources. Interning in Nicaragua offers the opportunity to develop professional skills while also having a positive impact on the world and on the everyday lives of individuals. These internships often have you working directly with at-risk individuals. For example, working with youth that have learning or developmental disabilities. Partnering with an NGO for an internship in Nicaragua also provides the opportunity to learn important skills, like grant writing, that are indispensable for a career in the nonprofit world as well as the private sector.
- Environmental: It is hardly surprising that the cloud forests, rainforests, and biodiversity of Nicaragua would attract those with an interest in preserving and maintaining the environment. Nearly one fifth of the country is set aside in preserves to protect these resources. Interns working in sustainability related fields have the opportunity to get involved in researching renewable energy technologies, increase access to solar and other technologies in rural areas. Those with an engineering background can also gain the technical know-how behind sustainable engineering while on their internship. These internships can also include biological field research, studying and cataloging Nicaragua's flora and fauna.
- Public Health: A Public Health internship in Nicaragua provides the opportunity to get some hands-on clinical experience that can serve as an entree into the field. Interns gain an in-depth knowledge of public health challenges in the developing world as well as the satisfaction of helping to provide healthcare to people who are most in need. These internships often include data analysis, helping with the day-to-day operation of clinics, ensuring access to medical supplies, and in some cases learning to perform some medical procedures.
When and Where to Look for an Internship:
Internships are available year round, ranging in length from two weeks to a full year. Though temperature varies little throughout the year, the climate of Nicaragua varies widely by location. While the Pacific lowlands, where the capital of Managua lies, have an average low temperature of 69 degrees Fahrenheit (21C), the central highlands and Caribbean lowlands are more temperate. Many of the internships are located in smaller cities and villages, since their focus is primarily on environmental research or on serving underserved communities.
Cost of Living in Nicaragua
As in most of the world, internships in Nicaragua are generally unpaid. However, the cost of living in Nicaragua is fairly low. $1US is equal to about 24 Nicaraguan Cordoba (as of June 2013). A one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs 6,186.25C$ ($250 USD) a month to rent. If you are located in a city, you may be able to make extra money as an English tutor or conversation partner.
Work Culture in Nicaragua:
- Etiquette: Nicaraguan culture is warm and informal, even in the workplace. Although formal attire is not odd for a first meeting, Nicaraguans tend to dress more casually. The 4-pocketed guayabera shirt is popular work attire. Casual touching on the arm and frequent eye contact is common in the Nicaraguan workspace and it is not uncommon for people who have a friendly relationship to greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. Along with this casual culture comes a certain disregard for strict meeting times and a small amount of tardiness is not uncommon.
- Language: Strong Spanish skills will make life in Nicaragua much easier. Although some tribal languages are still spoken in the country, most Nicaraguans speak Spanish. With an internship program that offers strong support to the intern, getting by with only English may be possible, but without that support life would be difficult. Most government websites, resources, and documents are readily available only in Spanish. But the bright side is that you will definitely get the chance to practice your language skills.
- Networking: Professional relationships in Nicaragua are often mixed with personal life, so it is important to treat all of your colleagues with respect, warmth, and kindness. The sustainability and development NGO communities are small and interconnected as it is, and word travels fast among those who work in Nicaragua. Development conferences often meet in Nicaragua; for example the Human Development and Capability Association is meeting in Managua in the fall of 2013
Work and Labor Laws in Nicaragua
There are no special laws regarding internships. US Citizens have the following entry requirements for Nicaragua: A tourist visa ($10), which can be purchased at entry for up to 90 days and can be extended at immigration office in Managua for up to an additional 3 months. For a longer stay, a temporary residence permit may be required. These are renewed on a yearly basis and also available from the Nicaraguan immigration office. There is also a $42 departure tax upon leaving Nicaragua, usually included in airfare.
Placa Central in Leon, Nicaragua
Why Intern in Nicaragua?
The country's beautiful landscape and inviting work culture promise to make interning in Nicaragua a memorable experience. Those who wish to answer the call to do global good and feel like they are truly making a difference in the world can find a meaningful internship while they learn skills and make connections that will stay with them for just as long as their fond memories of Nicaragua. Despite poverty and political strife, the Nicaragua's cities are full of architectural and cultural marvels. Nicaraguan music, literature, and cuisine is just as wonderful as its landscape.
Photo Credit: Playa Maderas, Leon