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Student Testimonial: Colleen Gardner

Colleen Gardner is a Senior Pre-Med and Psycology student from the State University of New York at Geneseo. She spent two months in El Sauce over the summer of 2014 studying Humanities and Service Learning. Her travels taught her a lot, she writes:

Before I traveled to El Sauce, I had no idea what to expect. I’d never spent an extended amount of time abroad, and I’d always traveled with family. From the minute we got off the plane in Managua, I felt welcome and safe. Those feelings only grew as I got settled into life in El Sauce and began to form relationships with my host family, my fellow SUNY Geneseo students, and the people in El Sauce. My first four weeks in Nicaragua consisted of taking Humanities II, and the last four weeks were devoted to service learning. Both experiences were incredible. During Humanities, I looked at topics such as colonialism and communism from a completely different perspective than I would have been able to do in the US. We also learned so much about Nicaraguan history and culture, through both our experiences and class time. During my service learning, I had the opportunity to shadow a nurse at a rural health post in Sabana Grande. While I speak very limited Spanish and she spoke no English, the nurse was incredibly welcoming to me (a common theme over my time in Nicaragua). I was able to observe both her and the doctor at the health post, and I learned so much about healthcare in a developing nation. The patients were very receptive to me, so I was able to sit in on a variety of appointments and exams. I also had the opportunity to help with the English classes taught by Enlace [Project], and I was consistently amazed at the students’ English skills. During our last reflection during service learning, which occurred at a breathtaking lookout in Ocotal, we were asked a question. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but it was something that provoked me to reflect on my time in El Sauce, and try to articulate the ways it had impacted me. I couldn’t come up with any words…I just started tearing up. I didn't, and still don’t, have the ability to accurately articulate how much my time in Nicaragua meant to me, and how much I learned.

The best part about my trip, hands down, was the people. Everywhere I went in Nicaragua I was treated with kindness and received generous hospitality. My host family was unbelievably patient with me when I attempted to speak Spanish, and those who spoke English were always willing to help translate. I took a leap of faith traveling to El Sauce for eight weeks, and it is a decision I would make again in a heartbeat. I never anticipated I would form such strong friendships, or that I would feel homesick for El Sauce after returning to the States. I sincerely hope I have the opportunity to work with Enlace again; it truly is an amazing organization doing amazing things.

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