Live From Nicaragua – Student Impressions

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Take one Iowa State University professor, 5 engineering students, 3 Spanish translators and the 10,000 residents of San Isidro and what do you get? Lots of hard work, new experiences, practical knowledge, “classroom to real world tests,” and memories that will last a lifetime. In this “Live from Nicaragua” newsletter we gathered the student’s first impressions and are sharing them with you.

The People of Nicaragua

  • It is full of hospitable people who instantly consider you part of their familyMi Casa es su Casa (my house is your house) isn’t just an expression it is a national valueOur host mom welcomed us warmly, has worried incessantly about us when we were sick, makes sure we had clean clothes for the weekend, and feeds us very wellI ate more rice in a week than I had the previous 6 months—I have a new favorite food!The warmest greetings I have ever received anywhere have seen that Nicaraguans really value practicing and living out their faithI saw so many kind actions and thankful gratitudeTheir love and friendliness can be shown through welcoming hospitalityI remember the first thing my Nicaraguan host family told me was, “My house is your house, and my family is your familyWelcome!I felt so welcomed and comfortable to live with my host family Nicaraguans are very humble and grateful

We will share more impressions and reflections from the students next month.

Iowa State Students serving EOS International this summer are:

Josh Wahl, senior in Mechanical Engineering, home town: Rock Falls, Illinois; Liz Sweeney, senior in Mechanical Engineering, home town: Des Moines, Iowa; Boyoung Jin, junior in Mechanical Engineering, home town: Seoul, South Korea; Josh Marlin, senior in Environmental Engineering, hometown: Nowthen, Minnesota; Ryan Williams, sophomore in Mechanical Engineering, hometown: Magnolia, Texas. The class is lead by Dr. Gloria Starns, Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Iowa State University.

Student Impressions:


The Country of Nicaragua

  • My first impression of Nicaragua was the beautiful countryside!Being from Iowa, I’m not used to mountains and you won’t ever get bored here because you can just look up at the mountainsIts’ landscape is perfect for scenic photos as stargazing; I saw vistas I have not seen in the StatesNicaragua has completely untrustworthy weatherIt may have a 100% chance of raining and you won’t see a cloud and then suddenly it rains

The Animals

  • It is full a diverse group of creatures from gecko to howling monkeys to the rooster outside my window who wants nothing more then to be heard firstSeeing that iguana sunning itself on bricks will stay with me foreverEveryone has chickens—fat ones, skinny ones, new chicksI have never seen so many live chickens and some will be dinner tonightI learned that bugs exist and they are OKDogs and cats are everywhere though they are not the pampered pets that we know in the United States


  • I feel like I’m missing a huge portion of what Nicaragua is, and who the people are, simply because I don’t know the language!I can’t understand their conversations, so it makes it hard to understand their valuesThis trip has made me value language so much, and I realize that if I ever intend on working in a foreign country that speaks a different language I want to speak that language before I arrive

Expectations & Reality

  • Many of my expectations of what a developing country is have been shattered completely In so many ways, things here are similar to back homeOne major difference is that doing things here seems harderWe aren’t helping the people here as much as they are helping usWe as Americans need to learn he difference between wants and needsA lot of the people here have all that they need and don’t seem to want more, so we need to learn to listen to what they actually want instead of what we want them to have because we think they need itThey are thankful for what they already have and are satisfied with their livesSometimes it is hard for foreigners to capture the real difficulty or problems in Nicaraguans lives because most people are content in the way they are livingFrom my experience being here, I realized that I am learning more from Nicaraguans rather than helping them

What I learned

  • I learned that material things are not what make people happy, but it is more about the attitudes and approach of how people look at their livesThe country has unlimited potential for innovation and new marketsWorking on projects here is a lot more challenging than it is in the states. We had to make a lot of design changes just based on the lack of materials availableYou can’t just order stuff on Amazon here!The country has unlimited potential for innovation and new marketsI had a preconceived notion that I would somehow be helping the people hereIn truth, my entire stay here has been an educationI’ve been learning the language, the customs, the norms and taboos, and the struggles of everyday life This trip has truly been an education just by experiencing this place with my senses, and I hope I can leave a positive impact through our project here that is even a fraction of the one these people have made on meI feel that I arrived completely unprepared to make a sustainable impact here, and I’m realizing that if I want to do another project in another country someday, I need to do much more research on the country itself, the language, and the technology before I fly there!Just these few weeks have already taught me how much goes into making a real, sustainable impact in another placeThe country has unlimited potential for innovation and new marketsIt would be a beautiful place to spend half a decade following your passion of improving the world!We aren’t helping the people here as much as they are helping usWe as Americans need to learn he difference between wants and needsA lot of the people here have all that they need and don’t seem to want more, so we need to learn to listen to what they actually want instead of what we want them to have because we think they need it.After asking lots of questions to Nicaraguans about their country, government, education system, and future, I have concluded that as a foreigner the best way to help the country is to teach Nicaraguans rather than just giving things awayBy teaching them new technology and knowledge, foreigners can help Nicaraguans to bring more income by their own and provide for their families


Everyone at EOS International is grateful for the time, the effort, the creativity and zeal the students and Dr. Starns gave to our Summer Exchange Program. Your work will continue long after they are back in school. The memories created in Nicaragua will live forever.

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