Friends Becoming Family
Jennifer deJong is a first-year law student.
Starting university this year, I was worried about being able to get involved in the school community as a first year. When I came across the ad for the 2014 Alternative Spring Break opportunity, I was happy that I could finally make my mark. This experience was way more than I could have ever asked for. I learnt so much more in one week in El Chile than I could ever learn in a classroom.
From the moment we arrived at the airport in Nicaragua, it was already a whole different world than the one I am used to at home. People are so welcoming and inviting. Our host family did everything they could to accommodate our large group of 16, which I am sure was no easy job. However, after only a few days there, I felt comfortable enough to call this house my home. Not only did I find myself lucky enough to have a home away from home, but I was given an even bigger family.
When I started on this long journey at the group interviews, I was timid and shy because I did not know anyone. Once the first pre-departure came along, I felt more comfortable seeing some similar faces from the interview a few weeks prior. We continuously bonded over the months and weeks before our departure, and this bond would only grow bigger while being together in close knit quarters for the week. This group is not only my great friends but familia.
Team Nicaragua was a strong group of Carleton students that went to Nicaragua to participate in community service learning. I know I am not the only one to feel that we may have learnt 10 times more from the locals than we could ever do for them. We went down there thinking we were just going to work on El Chile’s Elementary school. We thought that this community was poor and we thought that they needed our help. These assumptions were all wrong. The people of El Chile and Nicaragua are rich of culture, community, and relationships. They do not pride themselves on items, but on their families, friends and community. We did not only work on a school, but we worked with the people of El Chile, and learnt about a culture so different than our own.
Being given the opportunity to experience Nicaragua in a light much different than the usual all inclusive resort has opened my eyes to a new world. We had no running water, with no electronics, but that gave me the chance to receive the true Nicaraguan life experience. I saw the true culture, the true people, and the true country. There was nothing lavish, and yet it was the perfect trip. There was no schedule, and absolutely no stress. I would return back to my second “home” anytime, I cannot thank our host family enough and I could never truly ever explain the things that I experienced while In El Chile, because those things changed my life.
Submitted by Jennifer deJong, a first-year law student.
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