ICADS is a wonderful program that takes learning outside of the classroom. The program is divided into 3 major blocks. The first block is month long classes where you study Spanish in the morning in small classes based on your skill level. (I was in a class of 2.) In the afternoon there is a more structured class on sustainable development and social justice. During this period we went on many field trips and a study tour to Nicaragua. It was during this tour that I fell in love with Nicaragua and decided to do my study tour there instead of in Costa Rica (where the classes were held).
Once I decided to do my internship in Nicaragua, the program coordinators worked with me to find an internship that would fit what I was looking for in a program. I was interested in a public health setting although there were options for many other fields such as nursing, homeopathic medicine, teaching, environmental studies, etc. If they didn't already have an established relationship with an organization that interested you, the program coordinators worked hard to find you a new placement.
In Nicaragua, all the intern in my cohort lived in Matagalpa, this darling little town/city in NW Nicaragua. I lived in a modern house with modern conveniences. My host mom was a wonderful cook (too wonderful! I gained 5lbs!) and I was never hungry. I would spend time watching telenovelas with my family, or playing cards with my host siblings.
My internship was with the Nicaraguan Communal Movement (Movimiento Comunal Nicaraguese) (MCN). I worked with a wonderfully patient supervisor on a program that brought basic nutrition information to surrounding communities. I made different visual props and prepared a "charla" or mini, informal speech that I gave in tandem with my supervisor. It was really rewarding work.
In my time at MCN I also supported local protests against public transportation fare increases, domestic violence, and an international minery. I also made murals for a vaccination campaign that would be hung in local clinics around the area. I was really integrated into the organization even though my time there was short.
In the afternoons I went to a dance studio to work out. They had a very reasonable priced Zumba-styled class where I met both locals and foreigners like myself. The studio staff were friendly and I got a good workout.
I felt very safe in Nicaragua and had no trouble walking around by myself, although I didn't quite feel comfortable running there. On the weekends, my cohort would go dancing at Artesanos, a local bar.
I love Matagalpa and can't wait to go back. My internship helped prepare me for my public health career and was a key component to getting two jobs back in the states. I think that my time in Nicaragua was invaluable as it really shaped who I am as a professional and a person.