Gap Year in Nicaragua: Mateo’s Experience and Advice
For my gap year in Nicaragua I lived in Leon, participating as a volunteer for Amigos de Las Americas. I’ve spent the last months of my life as a volunteer for an NGO that provides after and before school care to children who come from underprivileged backgrounds. I’ve been teaching in subjects ranging from English to Physics, and helping students with their homework.
On working in the community:
Thanks to the flexibility of my host organization, I’ve also been able to offer extra-curricular classes to our students, such as piano and guitar. For me, being able to share my love for music with the kids has been one of the most critical parts in my bonding with them. At times, this work can be challenging, as many of these students have never been told that they were capable of pursuing a better future for themselves. However, when I think about all the dreams that these students have, I’m happy to have played a part in preparing them for their amazing futures.
Impact on college and career opportunities:
I originally decided to do a gap year in Nicaragua with AMIGOS because I wanted to take the time to explore a career that I was interested in, but knew I wasn’t going to study in college. Ironically enough, now I’m not so sure that I won’t just change my major and continue the work that I’m doing here! Whether it be academically or culturally, having been a volunteer with AMIGOS has opened up my mind to a whole new world of ideas and possibilities that I never would have had access to had I not participated with the program.
On living with a host family:
Of all the experiences I had during my gap year in Nicaragua, living with a host family was by far the most valuable. Learning to adapt and live with other people is such a good life skill, and I feel confident that I’ll be able to handle any roommate that I might have in college. My Spanish has also vastly improved by all the time I’ve spent with my host brothers. It truly feels like a belong to another family, and it can be easy to forget that I’ve haven’t known them my entire life. I’m fortunate to have gotten to know each and every member in my host family, and I’m sure that the bonds I’ve made with them will not break.
My next plans:
This summer, I will be continuing my work with AMIGOS volunteering as a project supervisor in Chimborazo, Ecuador. The confidence and resilience that I have gained from my time as an AMIGOS volunteer have truly empowered me to feel confident moving into any future job opportunity, which is why I decided to apply in the first place. Although my experience in Ecuador will be vastly different, I know that I can rely on the abilities that I have learned this past year to get me through the summer.
Advice for anyone interested in AMIGOS:
For anyone thinking to apply to the program, the advice I’d have to give, is that it’s okay to be afraid or unsure. For many, taking a gap year, especially abroad, is uncomfortable. However, being taken out of your comfort zone is the only way you can truly grow, so if you’re looking to mature exponentially as an individual, then this program is right for you.
If you’re interested in learning more about our gap programs in Nicaragua and Ecuador, RSVP for one of our upcoming online information sessions!