What is like coming to Nicaragua as an international student?
The start of a new semester always brings our favorite time; the arrival of our new group of exchange students. This semester we have a lovely group of 7 adventurous girls ready to take everything Nicaragua has to offer! As per usual, we start our semester with orientation and adventures in Managua, hoping to make the transition from our students as smooth as possible.
Day one of orientation was an all-information session at UAM. This included not only what they should know and expect about their classes, but also about Nicaragua in general. Homestays, cultural quirks, cultural adjustment, safety, and places to visit are a few topics we always discuss.
Day two was all about history; a country as rich in history as Nicaragua definitely needs a history introduction to understand current affairs and culture. We invited Marcel Jaenstchke, Nicaraguan writer, to give an introduction into Nicaraguan history which included the colonization, revolution and current events. Afterwards, we headed to old Managua; from the years of Somoza to the destruction of the city in 1972, Managua holds a crazy amount of our history and it’s a must to visit it.
Orientation at UAM College welcomes back its students with a half day of activities, followed by a traditional lunch of Caballo Bayo. This day is the perfect opportunity to meet fellow students and the faculty that will accompany our students for the next 4 months.
This semester we had two awesome trips with our ISEP and LNU exchange students and UAM students.
To celebrate Earth Week in April, UAM College organized a weekend filled with adventures and talks about the environment in Macizo de Peñas Blancas, Bosawas. For one weekend, we stayed at the Centro de Entendimiento con la Naturalez (CEN), learning about their work and hiking in the area. CEN is a research and workshop center in Peñas Blancas, working alongside local communities in subjects such as preservation of the environment, water conservation, leadership in rural organizations and indigenous communities, and reforesting the area.
Cañon de Somoto
For the last overnight trip, we decided to head to Cañón de Somoto for a weekend adventure. Somoto is in the department of Madriz, very close to the Honduran border, and is home to the best rosquillas in Nicaragua.
The canyon is about 20 minutes from the town and excursions usually consist of swimming and walking through the entire canyon, canoeing and rappelling down a cliff.
For the last four years, Universidad Americana has proudly participated in the worldwide event of NASA Space Apps Challenge. This event, also known as hackathon, is an event where problem solvers around the world join in to solve challenges in new and innovative ways. For 48 hours, teams around the world simultaneously work together to solve challenges affecting us at home and fostering innovative ideas for the exploration of outer space. This event seeks to inspire innovation and creativity to solve big problems in unexpected ways; it is an open invitation for anyone who wants to collaborate in positive ways to the technological development of our world.
This year over 16,000 students, experts, engineers, storytellers, makers, and artists participated at more than 160 events on 6 continents. Universidad Americana hosted the event the days of Abril 23rd and 24th in the central auditorium, where we received over 100 participants and 15 teams. The winner for first place was the team Microgravity Fit who worked on the challenge Astrocize; the second place went to the team Apps Hub working on the challenge Air Check. Both teams went on to participate internationally. Last, but certainly not least, the people choice award went to Team Galactica who worked on the challenge Book it to the Moon.
The event produced 1,287 projects around the world and we are proud to say that Team Galactica went on to be among the Top 10 People’s Choice Award Worldwide! Congratulations to our winner and all participants for their out-of-this-world work!
The Ohio University Global Consultancy Program (GCP) is a successful project with a multidisciplinary approach, as well as cross-cultural and foreign language skills, where students learn useful and transferable skills, and clients receive actionable and valuable plans. It occurs annually in 12 different countries worldwide. In Nicaragua, this program occurs during academic breaks between semesters.
When I first heard about the Global Consultancy Program, I thought to myself, “OH NO, NOT MY VACATIONS! I will be missing part of my holidays– no way, I’m not participating. And so, I didn’t. A year passed by and GCP was coming around the corner one more time. This time I was in another state in life, seeking work experience and a boost for my curriculum. This time I was completely excited to participate and the schedule did not interfere directly with the holidays…
My participation at first was for selfish reasons such as growing as a person, gaining experience and knowledge, a boost to my CV etc. until an actual connection with the programs began. The more I knew about it the more I wanted to be a part of it. The program represents an excellent opportunity to get to know how local businesses can find their way to success. It is also excellent to get some fresh thinking about issues– as students we put our skills into practice and clients receive suggestions according to their needs. We must be committed, focused and eager to learn as well as to deliver a solid consultancy.
After a couple of meetings with the office of International Programs, I understood the program better and realized that by participating I wasn’t only going to help myself but many others, such as my Ohio and UAM teammates and also the company I was going to be assigned to work with. Projects vary depending on the client and their needs. However, we all provided options for the organization and suggested recommendations for change, as well as advising on additional resources to implement solutions.
In Nicaragua we have a lot of talented people, unfortunately many of these people don’t have the right guidelines to grow and become successful. Through the Global Consultancy Program students get the chance to change the outcomes for these people. GCP is all about group work, with each group consisting of 2 UAM students and 2 Ohio Students, and each group is assigned to a different company.
Being a Strategic Marketing with a Concentration on Branding student I was assigned to work for a client who needed help with a rebranding, a marketing plan and financial guidelines. Fortunately I was lucky enough to be part of an amazing group. My Ohio teammates, Jeff Siegert and Dominico Donofrio, were really prepared and up for the challenge, as well as my UAM teammate Deyanira Muñoz. Working with them was awesome as I had the opportunity to get to know them and learn something from each of them. Now I have new tools and skills that will help me a lot along my entire career.
Our team was very fortunate to have Doña Susana Castro as our client– an amazing, admirable, entrepreneurial woman who is also very talented. Doña Susan is very family oriented and was extremely nice with us. From day one, she trusted her company to us and allowed us to do everything we believed was necessary; even to the point of changing her company name from TerraNica Artesanos to Rustik Arte. With the change of the name, many additional changes came along. Her reaction to our work was unique and she loved everything we worked on for her. The key for such reaction, I believe, was our commitment to her and our communication with her. Such commitments made us feel like a part of the company and I am sure that my team mates and I will be very proud to see Rustik Arte grow. This project was our baby for 2 weeks and I am absolutely sure we delivered and completed our tasks properly.
Although my experience with the client and teammates was great, this GCP experience goes beyond that. Personally, I had the opportunity to bond with other Ohio and UAM students and I must say they were all amazing people and very fun to be with. If I had the chance to participate again, I wouldn’t even hesitate!
For the third consecutive year, Ohio University (OU) and Universidad Americana (UAM) partnered to implement the Global Consultancy Program (GCP) in Managua for two weeks in December and January. The GCP has operated worldwide in 12 countries for more than 15 years. This year 21 OU students and 20 UAM worked as consultants to eight Nicaraguan companies and one organization.
The organization that participated this year was Fundación Adán (from “Adoption Animal Nicaragua”), a nongovernmental organization. Fundación Adán was founded in 2009 with the purpose of protecting and promoting animal rights, focusing on rehabilitating and finding homes for stray dogs and cats abandoned in the streets of Managua. By demanding compliance with Law 747, the animal rights and protection law, Fundación Adán aims to create awareness about violence towards animals, including abandonment. Additionally, the foundation rehabilitates abused and abandoned cats and dogs before placing them in adoption.
For two weeks, three OU students and two UAM students worked together with Fundación Adán to provide strategies and solutions to attract more donations, volunteers, and to advance their campaign of raising awareness about the mistreatment of animals. During their investigation, the students visited the foundation’ largest foster home, which houses 23 dogs; some of them ready to be adopted, while other still in the process of being rehabilitated after having been rescued from an abusive past.
If you would like to know about Fundación Adan, please visit their Facebook page: Fundación Adan.
A few weeks ago, my colleague Adela Dávalos asked me to participate in a social service project called Inner CHANGE WORKS Organization (ICW) in addition to my internship at the UAM International Programs Office. The project deals with Nicaraguan school children in an economically disadvantaged area. The goal of ICW is to motivate and educate children about culture and the importance of an education. For example, last year the organization provided a theatre seminar for the children in Acahualinca, which turned out a success. The ICW has noticed less violence now in comparison to before the project.
I agreed immediately to Adela’s idea and confirmed to visit this group.
On the 28th of November 2015, I visited the group of children with Javier Quinto, Casey Jenkins and Julia Chamorro. We went to a district in Managua, where children are planning to have another theatre seminar and performance. The preparations for this project are running during the next weeks. I used this visit as an opportunity to give some colored pencils, which I had brought from Germany with me to give to children from families in financial need.
A short prequel story behind the purpose of the pencils: Recently, when I participated in a film project in Germany close to Frankfurt am Main, I met with colleagues in a pub for an after-work-drink. There I met a young man, who already travelled around Central America and who gave me the advice to pack as much as possible colored pencils as “give-aways” for children. They seem to highly value pencils which gives them the opportunity to develop writing skills.
Back to Managua. It is nine o’clock in the morning. We met at the lobby of UAM’s campus. Javier is one of the project’s supervisors, who takes care of the children. He has been involved with ICW for more than two years.
Javier started to explain to us from the beginning his impressions from this project’s past and his wishes for the next few weeks. He hopes to keep this interactive idea alive and to develop more social competencies in-between the children.
We drove to the project’s location in Javier’s car. The houses in the community are very small, people build their houses with simple metal plates. The children are used to dirt floors and people in general seem not to own a lot of material things.
We probably drove 20 minutes by car from UAM’s campus. Our ride didn’t take long, nevertheless, I had enough time to exchange wonderful ideas about how to interact with the children with Casey.
Before we arrived at our destination, we stopped at the beginning of a street, where two young boys waited for us. The car continued very slowly while the boys walked next to us. One of them was Gerald, a 12-year-old boy, who seemed very friendly from the start. Gerald and Javier talked in Spanish about many things related to our plan. Unfortunately, I could not understand everything. Anyway the boy quickly made eye contact to us and welcomed us with his eyes.
We reached the schoolyards gate and Javier knocked softly on the big entrance door. I felt a little bit as if I were in Peter Pan’s Neverland, like in the movie “Hook”. It took a while for someone to answer the door, but then an old guard came to the door and let us in. The big schoolyard seemed very safe, because it was surrounded by a huge wall. From my point of view, a very effective physical protection for the children. In the future I may discover the reasons for such a huge protection.
When we entered the yard we couldn’t see many children at the first, but I was very sure that some were observing us while they hid behind some building walls. We walked directly to a classroom and suddenly a few children were around us. Young girls and boys of different ages. It felt more and more like Neverland. They curiously gathered around us. We sat down with them and started a short introduction. It was probably very funny for the children to listen to my “Baby-Spanish-Level”, but I prepared some surprises for them. Every time a child could answer a simple science question, they got a pencil for free. Immediately I saw the different talents of the children. Ridel took many beautiful photos with my camera. Gerald showed me his “human-jukebox” skills for three minutes without a pause. The children were happy, and I had a very good time with them. Some of them were extremely motivated to win multiple pencils. More and more I felt responsibility for those young people, but I concluded, that I have to find a balance between over-volunteering and taking care of myself. I was happy by this situation to learn once again that I can be here to contribute a piece of the puzzle of a wonderful development. I decided to support them in preparing themselves a bit for their next theatre performance.
We spent the day with the children and we all had a great time during a costume fitting activity, a simple geography lesson, playing some group rhythm exercises which I had learned during my theatre acting education and playing Ultimate Frisbee provided by Casey. Julia had wonderful conversations with some of them and translated for us a lot. After one of the activities, we requested to be taught by some of the children. We asked them to show us some of their playground games. It was a surprise for me, when they taught me some games that I used to play as a kid as well. I felt as if I was home, like I had just stepped back into my personal past.
Javier was very confident with our participation and offered to let me visit the children again the next Thursday to teach them basics skills in theatre acting. I agreed.
During this interpersonal experience, I observed many general similarities between the children and my own childhood experiences. I learned again during this day that being a child is something very universal. Those children practice the same methods to play like children everywhere. Even though the Atlantic Ocean splits our continents, our strongest similarities seem to already start during our childhoods. The schoolyard seemed to be a wonderful and safe platform for many children. There they get the opportunity to escape from their hard day-to-day life in their community. It offers next to education many playgrounds for sports too.
The day with the children confirmed to me once again, that play is the principal expression of the human spirit. I want to quote one of my most favorite quotes, which I received by one of my masters during my education:
“man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.”
This line is from Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805) on play from the fifteenth letter of “On the Aesthetic Education of Man.”
The theatre project can be successful by creating many role models for the children. The children can learn early the idea of taking responsibility only for themselves. With the students, I learned that children need a person to look up to. Youngsters and students find their heroes mostly in the commercial world, which charms to consume only.
Constructive communication and constructive experience for children through projects like this one, should be more widely supported as soon as possible. I believe that we all make mistakes sometimes, nevertheless, every society should have the responsibility to provide all children a safe protected area for human interaction and opportunities to grow through beautiful experiences.
The playing with the children was quickly possible and they quickly opened their hearts. I value this a lot. That’s why I will try to contribute to their theatre project as much as I can during my free time in Managua. Thank you very much to Javier and his team for supporting those young people these past two years.
Whoever wants to participate in this project can reach us in our office on UAM’s campus and we will provide you information and set up a contact with the responsible organization.
Thank you for reading my report. I hope you could get an impression about those potentials in Managua.
P.S. If you know somebody, who might be interested in contributing something in ICW’s work – please don’t hesitate to press one of the Social Media buttons below and share this information with your friends. ICW’s website is www.innerchangeworks.org.
Ohio University Global Consultancy Program returns to UAM for the third consecutive year. 20 Ohio students and 20 UAM students form intercultural teams to provide consultancy services to 10 companies in Managua.
UAM students welcome Ohio University students with following video message:
Today we are very happy to officially launch our International Programs Website, www.ip.uam.edu.ni . This website production contains a preproduction phase (definition and planning), a production phase (creation and modification), and a postproduction phase (process management definition and sustainable management organization).
Our website automatically posts on the following platforms:
Moreover, we want to inform you, that our office actively posts on channels such as Vimeo and Instagram. Soon we will add the modern social media platforms Periscope and Vine.
Personally, I am very proud of this upgrade, because our website allows us to show you the day-to-day work of the International Programs Office much more efficiently. During the next days we will establish an online catalogue about how to prepare properly for the student’s life in Managua.
Feel free to watch our website’s tutorial and get in touch with us. We are thankful for all kinds of feedback and support.
Do you like to write reports in English? Do you want to publish something about lifestyle in Nicaragua?
Please get in touch with us! We will publish your reports on our new platform.