This program was one of three that I had applied and been accepted to. The fact that we travel through three different countries - Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua in that specific order - led me to decide on accepting this program through the Center for Global Education at now-Augsburg University. Additionally, I chose this program because I wanted to learn more about the sociopolitical history, traditions and customs, and the culinary richness that exists in Central America. I am Mexican American, but had never traveled south of the Mexico border and wanted to learn more about the countries that exist in our backyard. Guatemala was beautiful and challenging because it had recently freed itself from a 36-year-old civil war in 1996, and the remnants of such conflict were still evident in the places we visited. However, the people I met there were amazing. Costa Rica is also an interesting place to explore. Very touristy, but full of humbled people, especially those you will meet at the LaCarpio community in San Jose. I must admit, Nicaragua was my favorite place to visit and explore. The country experienced a startling social revolution in the 1970s that overthrew the Somoza dictatorship, and Nicaraguenses were ambivalent showing pride or reservation about the Sandinista takeover in the country. Batahola del Norte, the community you will stay in, is also a working-class neighborhood that reminded me of my home in some aspects, so it was nice to be in a space where I felt comfortable despite being a foreigner.
If you are thinking about applying to this program, do it! But before you do, just know that you will be traveling a lot, which is hectic at times, but you become accustomed to it and learn how to pack lightly (very important skill!). You will be spending most, if not all, of your time with your cohort of travelers for the entirety of the program, which can get awkward, but is also a beautiful thing when you bond over the activities you do or the places that you visit together. Lastly, you will be spending most of your time in an urban setting, but a handful of days are set apart and spent in rural areas. The change of scenery can be a tough and quick transition for some, but the people you meet and the stories you hear are worth any bit of discomfort you might feel in the beginning.
If you are still on the fence about going on this program even after reading this and glancing over my pictures, feel free to reach out. I'd love to have a conversation with anyone about this program.