Dordt College News

Students abroad learn about home

March 14, 2014

Seven Dordt College students spent an unforgettable semester on SPIN in Leon, Nicaragua, last semester.

The students who studied in Nicaragua last semester did so for different reasons. Angie Johnson, an elementary education major, wanted an international study experience because she hopes to work in missions and knew she should live in another culture before committing to a long-term position. Spanish and administrative assistant major Michaelah Swier wanted to live in a Spanish-speaking country. Karina Fast, an agriculture business major, chose to go “because I felt God calling me to trust him in a completely new environment.”

For Eli Anderson, a digital media production major, Nicaragua offered a way to connect with his Dordt roommate from Nicaragua. SPIN students live with host families as they study Nicaraguan culture and history, learn Spanish, and take a biblical worldview class at the Nehemiah Center for Transformational Development. Anderson appreciated the fact that he could “not only learn about but also experience Nicaragua firsthand.”

Agriculture and business major and Spanish minor Danielle Zuidema says she came to understand more clearly in Nicaragua “that people’s worldviews are impacted by every single part of their lives.” She came to see how what she believes and what she has experienced affects how she sees others and their experiences.

“For the first time I had something to compare American culture to,” Johnson  says. Being in Nicaragua changed how she looks at her culture, and she expects the experience to continue to shape her. She feels God calling her to return to Central America after college to teach.

Emily Friend, a Spanish education major, says she, too, learned more about American culture. “It is hard to analyze your own culture when you are living in it. When you are outside of that culture and take a step back, you realize that things are not as they seemed before! It’s a bit difficult to explain, but life changes after you study abroad.”

The SPIN students list staying with host families, enjoying the beauty of the country, and the excitement of new experiences as highlights of their semester. They loved climbing volcanos and sledding down the ashes, and they developed deep friendships. Fast learned to make traditional Nicaraguan foods from her host mom and taught her host mom how to make her favorite American treats: chocolate chip cookies and rice crispy treats.

Friend says she learned “that the definition of ‘home’ is not static. After studying abroad, I know that ‘home’ can be anywhere.” Johnson says that spending the semester in Nicaragua was “the hardest experience of my life, but I am so thankful for it. It has changed me.”
Swier agrees, “I see the world differently now.”


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