Unearth the World loves planning customized global programs for groups of students and professionals to engage with the international community through volunteering and cultural immersion. We also love sharing the stories of transformative experiences that shape the way people see the world. Please enjoy the short summary of one such trip below.

As part of a Harper College English Honors course called The Promise(s) of Revolution: Nicaragua, the U.S., and the Sandinistas, a group of 9 students spent their Spring Break traveling through Unearth the World to Nicaragua. Throughout the course – under the leadership of English professor and Director of International Education – Dr. Richard Johnson – students were asked to read and write about the history of Nicaragua and its contentious relationship with the United States. In the weeks leading up to travel, the group critiqued the very ideas of service learning and civic engagement. The students’ visit to Nicaragua was the perfect opportunity to apply what they learned throughout the semester and engage in a hands-on service learning project with Unearth the World’s local partner. This group was truly transformed from the class and subsequent international experience. Students improved their intercultural communication, demonstrated ability to analyze cross-cultural comparison, and were able to articulate a clear understanding of global perspectives. Even Dr. Johnson found the experience to be one of the most rewarding of his 35 years of teaching.

We are so proud to share Dr. Johnson’s reflection below:

This spring semester I taught a research composition (ENG 102) course that examines the concept and practice of “service learning,” both domestically and internationally. All of the class readings and assignments interrogate examples of service learning along a scale from “charity” to “social justice.”

Over spring break, the students and I traveled to a rural community outside Managua, Nicaragua and put our theoretical knowledge to the test of hands-on practice. Unearth the World facilitated all aspects of the program with our local host, La Mariposa Eco-Hotel and Spanish School, where we stayed on the hillside campus of El Piscacho Study Centre. Over the course of nearly a year, Kathryn of Unearth the World and I had conversations about what the program might include, and she put together a truly transformative program and itinerary for my students with Chester, Josimar, Paulette, and the administrative team at La Mariposa.

With views of the Masaya volcano range, El Piscacho Study Centre met the needs of our course. A self-contained “campus,” it includes a dormitory capable of housing 20 students, 3 individual rooms, 4 small classrooms, a large lecture/meeting room, and a large reflection area with 10 hammocks. The campus is self-contained with its own kitchen and cooking area that provides freshly cooked meals from locally sourced food (much of it grown in La Mariposa’s organic gardens) each day. The staff are amazing, looking after our every need. My students quickly settled in and befriended Elissabet, Yajaira, and Melba, assisting with cooking and cleaning chores.

Our days were full with three hours of service every morning followed by two hours of Spanish language instruction by local teachers after lunch. We closed out each day with an hour of composition coursework and guided reflection/discussion based on the days’ events. One of the advantages of working with Unearth the World is that they have strong collaborative relationships with their local partners and can enliven an itinerary with a variety of excursions and cultural experiences. Given our focus on service and cultural immersion, Kathryn arranged a number of field trips for us, including visits to the GAIA Estación Biológica on the shores of Laguna de Apoyo and Masaya Volcano National Park where we stood at the precipice of the active Santiago crater. One evening, we had dance lessons to the music of a local Mariachi band. On a day trip to Léon, we also swung by the Pacific coast for a boat tour of the mangroves at Poneloya. We arrived home at El Piscacho exhausted but content every evening, looking forward to each new day.

All in all, and as I have freely admitted to the students, this 10-day experience with Unearth the World and La Mariposa has been one of the most rewarding of my 35-year teaching career!

If you’ve never taken students overseas, or even if you have, consider visiting La Mariposa Eco-Hotel and Spanish School through Unearth the World. With the sure and steady guidance of Kathryn and La Mariposa’s excellent team, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t done it earlier!

If you want to read more about our experience, follow our blog: https://worldingus.wordpress.com/category/honors-program-to-nicaragua/