Students gain hands-on experience in El Sauce, Nicaragua

Going to college provides an array of opportunities to explore the world and acquire hands-on experience in the field of your choice. Freshman Jennifer Grom took advantage of Geneseo's Nicaragua service-learning trip, which takes place both during winter session for two weeks and during the summer for a month. Students spend time in El Sauce, an impoverished community in Nicaragua. 

To deem this study abroad experience different from any other, Grom can say that she cleaned an infected bullet wound in the E.R. of the El Sauce Hospital, provided stitches for a machete wound, gave injections and learned how to live without electricity. 

"It was the hardest, but most amazing experience of my life," Grom said. "It took me a while to catch on to the language, but I was glued to my dictionary the entire time and in two weeks I was able to understand jokes and communicate." 

This study abroad experience exists through a microloan program between Enlace (a non-profit organization), El Sauce and Geneseo students. As part of this program, Geneseo students help to provide Nicaraguan citizens – primarily young women – looking to start their own business in garment or craft sales with the appropriate amount of money to start and expand their businesses. 

The loans also contribute to future agricultural investments, such as buying seeds necessary to grow crops. In addition to the loans, the program provides service-learning opportunities with various classes such as business, finance, computer education, youth development and others, to foster a continued relationship with El Sauce while also promoting economic growth in the area. 

Together, a mixture of Geneseo students, Klainer Center and Students in Free Enterprise has raised $650 out of their $1000 goal for the first round of loans. SIFE is a nonprofit organization that educates students on entrepreneurship, business ethics and related topics through outreach projects to develop them into socially responsible business leaders.

This study abroad program not only makes a monumental difference in the lives of the people of Nicaragua, but in the students who take part as well. 

"I am on the premed track and going into this I wasn't sure what to expect, but it made me positive I am in the right field. The feeling is in my gut," Grom said.

Grom had the opportunity to work in the emergency room, live with a host family, learn how to ride a horse for transportation and even helped work on building a school. All of this was done in the short span of two weeks. 

To get involved with an opportunity as rewarding as Grom's, seek out the Study Abroad office in Erwin Hall.