By: Natalie Miller, Agribusiness and Applied Economics | Washington Courthouse, OH
From January 1-10, I joined a group of 26 other first year students from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences on an Adventure through Nicaragua. Although we had spent one semester together in our pre-departure course, it was impossible for me to foresee the growth that we would experience as students in an unfamiliar culture. Most importantly, I never could have predicted that the majority of this growth would result from discomfort. As we toured Nicaraguan cities, ate beans and rice with every meal, and attempted to speak a new language, I realized that new, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable experiences fuel growth. We grew together as friends, but individually in our own unique ways.
For the first time in my life, I was thrown into a culture where my primary verbal communication consisted of saying, “gracias,” and smiling. Our group traveled with translators, but I never could have imagined how challenging being unable to communicate with someone directly could be. On the contrary, I learned that body language and laughs are universal as we stayed with families in the Peñas Blancas Mountains (checkout Abby Motter’s blog post for more about our home stay https://u.osu.edu/studentblog/2016/01/12/a-new-reality/). Another student, Hannah, and I were able to learn new card games and play pick up sticks with minimal verbal communication and a whole lot of smiling and demonstrations.
Throughout our time in Nicaragua, we hiked up a muddy mountain in the pouring rain and loved every minute, we got a little (or a lot) sunburned while swimming in a volcanic crater turned lake—it was awesome. We experienced bus sickness, a language barrier, new cuisine, and showers without hot water, but these uncomfortable experiences helped us to become more in tune with Nicaraguan culture, to foster friendships in our group, to become less materialistic and more humanistic, and to realize that all things considered, people are people wherever you are. I am so thankful for an uncomfortable, fulfilling, and infinitely gratifying ten days.