Hola to our family, friends, and loved ones back at home! Today we learned about the Nicaraguan education system in comparison to the education system in the United States. Our question of the day was as follows: How important is education in a developing country and how can we be educated with a global awareness? We kept this question in mind throughout the day as we went through our academic seminar, listened to a guest speaker, and visited Nicaraguan high school students.

We started the day out at 8:00 with a breakfast of French toast and fruit (the hostel loves to make American meals for us once in a while). After breakfast, we compared and contrasted the Nicaraguan and American education systems in a team sorting activity. We discovered that in the United States, the richest country in the Western Hemisphere, 88.1% of the entire population holds a high school degree. In comparison, in Nicaragua, the poorest Spanish speaking country in the world, only 45% of children who enter primary school continue to high school, making the country’s secondary school enrollment among the lowest in the world. After the sorting activity, we discussed as a group the importance of education and the consequences of being without one in an innovative world.

After our academic seminar, many of us went out to local cafes to go over our English tutoring lesson plans. My group went out to SN cafe, where we ordered amazing Oreo frappes and mochas. The coffee shops here in Nicaragua are definitely better than the Starbucks and Peet’s we have back at home. After reviewing our lesson plans, we headed back to the hostel to hear from Fernanda Polanco, a student from Matagalpa who is currently studying in England to be an English teacher. After sharing her story, we asked her questions about her opinion of Nicaragua’s education system as well as her plans to implement change. When asked about her motivation to continue her education, Fernanda responded, “I never wanted to go to school when I was younger, but that all changed when I met teachers who inspired me to be all that I could be. I now aspire to be one of those people so that I can change lives as well.” Fernanda will soon be traveling to the United States to study in Michigan on a scholarship. Many of us were inspired by Fernanda’s work ethic and goals for her future.

After lunch, some of the group went out with Alex to exchange our American dollars for Nicaraguan cordovas. It was a bright and sunny day until around 1:30pm, when it began to pour. Despite the rain, we walked to San Francisco de Asis, a local school, to meet with ACCESS students. ACCESS is a program funded by the American embassy that sponsors children in developing countries so that they can have a chance at gaining an education and one day study at a university. Soaked from the walk, we entered the classroom and were met with warm smiles. We separated into groups of about 5-7 and talked to the ACCESS students about their daily lives and aspirations. In my group, each of the three young girls were already fluent in English. I discovered that they each had amazing goals: Zaidel wants to study graphic design, Freydell dreams of becoming an architect, and Fernanda wishes to go into medicine. Each of the groups also had to come up with a creative presentation to give the entire class. We decided to write a rap portraying the similarities between our American and Nicaraguan cultures. Other groups danced, sang, and played games together. After another hour of playing games, our group said our sad goodbyes and braved the heavy rain once more.

Returning the the hostel, we quickly ate our spaghetti dinner and prepared for our second English tutoring session. Several people felt sick, so they had to stay behind at the hostel (Don’t worry, parents. We’re in good hands😊). After returning from English tutoring, we had our nightly meeting. We discussed once again the importance of education, and the opportunities it brings to people who gain it. Our team also talked about the importance of obtaining a global awareness so that we, as leaders, will be better equipped to catalyze change.

The group listening to Fernanda speaking about Nicaraguan education.

The group listening to Fernanda speaking about Nicaraguan education.

Today was definitely an eye-opening day where we learned about Nicaragua’s education system and it’s shortfalls. Despite this, our group was incredibly inspired by the stories and goals of Fernanda and the ACCESS students. We are all very excited for another spectacular day in Nicaragua tomorrow! Adios!