Today was the last of our reality exchange experiences on the trip, but it sure wasn’t the least. The day started bright and early at 5 A.M. as it does for many of Nicaragua’s high school students. After a satisfying breakfast of bread and eggs, with Chilla Tamarindo to drink, we made our way to the two high schools, Maria and San Pablo. Once there, we separated into two groups for each high school. Each student was assigned a Nicaraguan student to shadow until noon. Maria and San Pablo are both private schools, with Maria able to spend more on the school due to its higher cost of tuition, around $30. San Pablo, while still a private school, cost around $10, representing another socio-economic class.
I, Adeel, spent my time at Maria. My first impression of Maria was the general excitement in the student body. Despite it being 7 A.M., students were running around the campus and seemed very eager for the day. Maria, being a Catholic school, began the day with a morning prayer lasting around 30 minutes. After the brief introduction, we were assigned to our students. My assigned partner, Ronaldo, did not come to school today, so I was assigned to Miguel. Miguel, about 4 inches taller than me and only 15 years old, is a current junior in high school. Going into class with him was a bit scary at first, considering I have no experience in Spanish and I did not think the students would be fluent in English as well either. However, the nervousness lifted quickly as we communicated with my broken Spanish and his intermediate English. I didn’t realize how much I don’t miss school until the teacher started to write trigonometry identities on the board. The classroom style in Nicaragua is very different than the classroom style in America. The students are much more comfortable with their teachers, not hesitating to crack jokes and relax. Such a style, in America, would immediately be subject to a form of discipline, while here, it seemed normal and much less of a problem. Miguel and I continued to talk about school, our lives, and various topics that came up throughout the lesson. As I quickly learned, the language barrier would not be an issue at all. After the math class, we moved on to Spanish, my favorite. They were writing skits about illegal drug use, which I did not understand at the time, because I thought the word “drugas” meant dragons. After Spanish, we moved on to computation, the equivalent of a computer class. I walked in expecting that they were learning basic computer skills and programs, but was pleasantly surprised when the teacher, or “professor” as they are called here, introduced the Adobe Photoshop assignment of the day. Having worked with Photoshop a lot before, I felt like a professional helping students try to make a picture of ducks look 3D. The computer lab was not the most accommodating, but it was enough for the tasks at hand. Miguel and I finished first in the class, after communicating with a mixture of hand signals, Spanish, and English. At 10:10, it was time for break. Miguel, his friends, and I walked over to the snack stand to grab some drinks and then played soccer, or futbol. Soccer lasted for about 5 minutes considering the heat and heavy clothes we were all wearing, but it was definitely a great experience. The 20 minute break went by just as fast as breaks do back at home and it was time for English, another subject I have had plenty of experience in. A few students and I were given the task to teach the class how to use “So” and “Neither.” The lesson went by quick and with ease. Unfortunately, our time at the school came to an end around 11:00 as we spent some time taking pictures and exchanging names for Facebook. And so our first day at Maria, to everyone’s dismay, became our last. However, across the street from Maria, San Pablo had just an equally unique experience.
I, Kyna, spent my morning at San Pablo High School. When I first entered the school’s gates with my fellow global glimpsers, I had a sense of enthusiasm and excitement to shadow high school students of Nicaragua. Although it was 7 in the morning, everyone seemed to be filled with life and energy – something that I am not used to back at highschool in America. Young boys were playing catch in the school’s common area while many of the students were gathering outside of their classes. Once the bell rang, we were introduced to our shadow students for the day and we finally got to interact with them and experience the Nicaraguan classroom environment. I was partnered with Frank, an 18 year old senior. Once we first entered the classroom, Frank decided that we would sit in the front row, something that I am also not used to doing back home. After reciting an opening prayer, everyone in the class resumed to their prior doings, and Frank and I started to get to know each other more. Luckily for me, he is fluent in English which made it very easy to talk to him and exchange details about ourselves. He told me that he had recently traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to visit a friend and that it was also the best two weeks of his life. His favorite subjects in school are English and Philosophy – something that I am also very interested in. we were able to discuss similar ideals and beliefs we both have. Frank also told me how he wants to pursue a career in medicine and wishes to study at the University of Wisconsin in the United States. Because of his comedic personality, he never failed to get a laugh out of me when we would crack jokes. I feel very fortunate to have been given a chance to shadow a high school student in Nicaragua and get a glimpse of their educational routine. In the classrooms, I noticed that the students are more comfortable and lenient with their teachers and are able to joke around with them…something that would lead to potential punishment back in the States. Although the school atmosphere is very different, I enjoyed discovering the similarities between us as well. Like Frank, I also want to travel the world, continue to grow as a person, and experience beyond what the world has to offer. We both have teenage problems that we deal with, and parents that we want to make proud. We both see the high school sweethearts around school as well as friends we pass by in the hallways. We have homework assigned to us and teachers that get on our bad side sometimes. And a major plus, we both love french fries and cheeseburgers.Being able to spend my morning in San Pablo was a complete pleasure and it honestly made me look forward to starting my senior year this upcoming fall. Despite the unfortunate short amount of time we had with all of our students, I am certain that the memories we have made with them will be embedded into our minds.
And not to mention, Frank and I be facebook friends soon enough (: