Study Abroad: Health service work in Nicaragua

I spent a month in El Sauce, Nicaragua during summer 2014 completing a Global Service Learning course through Geneseo. My time was spent shadowing doctors and nurses at rural health posts, helping teach English classes at Enlace and traveling around different parts of Nicaragua on the weekends. I learned about my future profession—I hope to be a physician one day––and was exposed to a new culture and some incredible people. At the health posts, I quickly became friends with the nurse and two doctors who worked there. They were more than willing to teach me about their daily tasks and even trained me so that I could help boost the number of patients they saw in a day. The tasks that I was assigned to were weighing patients, taking blood pressures and writing out scripts for medications.

These tasks were endlessly exciting to me as a student on the pre-med track. Simply observing the doctors attend to patients was a great learning experience. I watched as the doctors counseled patients on the benefits of using birth control and filled out forms for state records about the health-quality of people’s homes––asking if the floors were made of dirt or cement, and whether there were members of the family that smoked. When we weren’t busy with patients, I learned a lot from the nurses and doctors about their lives and what it was like to work in healthcare in Nicaragua.

Participating in the English classes offered by Enlace was also wonderful because it was another opportunity to get to know the people of El Sauce. During those afternoons, I was touched and endlessly impressed by the students’ persistence and positive attitudes in learning the English language.

My fellow English teacher and guide for volunteer groups Juan Mairena taught a class of young adults. They advanced in skill each week I was there, and I happy to be useful by helping them with their pronunciation. A high point of helping with the English classes was getting to watch a series of plays that the students put on in English displaying Nicaraguan myths. The students had decent acting skills on top of language skills; we were out of our seats laughing.

On the weekend trips that we took, we got to see cities like León and Granada and learn about the country’s history. We got to play the role of tourists in these cities, sitting in cafés and ambling through art galleries, old churches and souvenir markets.

I kept a journal all throughout the month I was in Nicaragua. The last entry, written on the plane from Managua to Miami, reads, “I’ll remember the people that I met on this trip forever, even once I forget the details of what I saw and did.”

I know this is true and I hope to keep in touch with the people I met there for years to come, along with the people of the Enlace Project. The trip is running again this summer from June 23 to July 20. If you’re interested, head to the Geneseo Study Abroad website and check it out.