This month we invited Allison Bailey, a student from the University of Northern Iowa, to be a guest blogger on our page. Allison visited San Ramón in December 2016 while completing the UNI study abroad course “Socioeconomic Reality of Central America.” We asked her to share a little about her experience staying with a host family in San Ramón.
When provided with the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua for college credit, I thought it would be a great experience. Little did I know that it would actually be a life-transforming experience. From the start, the people of Nicaragua were extremely hospitable and kind. The most memorable part of my experience, however, was probably the time spent with our host family.
As our bus approached the place in which we were staying, I began to feel my heart pound. We were about to live in a house full of native Spanish speakers for four days and we had only just realized that there were no fluent Spanish speakers out of the four of us who were staying there. I took four years in high school and had been practicing Duolingo, but had no experience conversing with a native speaker. I came in with the mindset that I just needed to make it through the next few days. I left wanting only to stay longer.
Immediately, our host mother, Ivania, did everything in her power to ensure that we were to have the greatest experience possible. She had a smile that reached from ear to ear and prepared (in my opinion) the best meals of the entire trip. Though we knew little Spanish, Ivania used the little English she knew to communicate with us, as well as the little Spanish I knew, and quickly we were made to feel as if we were home. I still remember one of the first things she said when we arrived, as well as the last thing she said as we left, was “Mi casa es su casa.” And our home it became.
There was a little boy living in the house named Fernando. Fernando is only seven years old and knew no English, but we quickly overcame this small barrier. We connected first using my limited knowledge of Spanish, but soon we were joking around, receiving tours from Fernando in which he taught us how to say the names of certain plants, chickens, etc. in the yard, and playing a memory game with him. By the end of our time in San Ramon, everyone in the group had heard plenty about Fernando, though many had never met him.
Leaving the city was much harder than I had anticipated coming in. I felt as if I was leaving a mother and brother, and actually felt more at home in this house than I often did in the U.S. I did not expect to fall in love with this family, as well as Nicaragua as a whole. My experience in my host home developed not only a deep love for the Nicaraguans we had encountered, but also taught me that even a language barrier could not prevent one of the most meaningful friendships of my lifetime. The most difficult part of our trip to Nicaragua was definitely leaving the country we had grown to love. I am forever grateful for this life changing experience, and look forward to the day in which I am able to return to Nicaragua to reunite with all the friends I made.
We are so thankful to Allison for her sharing her experience with us! If you’d like to learn more about how you can build a similar experience for yourself or your students, please contact us.