With the girls. Photos by author

Brave New Travelers: Seeing the World Differently

Nicaragua Travel Matador Youth Scholarship Essays
by Rosely Villa Dec 5, 2011
Rosely is fifteen years old and a junior at Galileo High School in San Francisco, CA. She was one of six students who received the Matador Travel Scholarship and traveled to Nicaragua this summer with a non-profit organization called Global Glimpse.

MY NAME IS ROSELY VILLA. I am fifteen years old and I was born and raised in San Francisco. I have always wanted to travel and experience the world that surrounds me hands on.

This summer I had the opportunity to do so in the Adventure, Learn, and Serve delegation with Global Glimpse in León, Nicaragua for three weeks. This delegation had an itinerary jam-packed with adventurous activities, culture lessons, and service projects. The theme in itself caught my interest. Having service incorporated into the program made me want to take part in this specific delegation even more. Not only were we taking in the experience but also giving back to the community that welcomed us.

photo by author

The delegation

Before leaving for my trip, I was eager to get out of the country to learn and explore Nicaragua. Though, I was sad to leave my family behind for an entire three weeks. Being away from home was a lesson in itself; it was a preview of how it may be when I leave for college.

I traveled with five other youth fellows of my graduating class from the Coro Exploring Leadership Program and thirteen other students from high schools around the Bay Area. My family and I were more at ease knowing I was traveling to another country with people I already knew. When we arrived in Managua we had to take a long bus ride from Managua to León.

The drive to León reminded me a lot about the Philippines, where I’m from. The humidity in the air and the many small stores lined up one by one were similar to those in Manila. I felt familiar with the city; I began to miss my family back in the Philippines even more than my family back in San Francisco. During my first week in León, I was feeling homesick from being in a place that felt like home but this home was not filled with the people that I loved and called family.

my new friend

my new friend

My delegation had so many activities in store. The day we went to go swimming at the Crater Lake was one of my favorite days. The hike up was not easy due to the heat, but it was worth it because at the top there was one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. The volcano was covered in lush green and in the center was the calm lake. The water was warm and bubbles rose with every step you took deeper into the lake. It felt good to focus on having fun and being worry free. Not everything was fun and games.

We participated in One Dollar Day, which truly gave me a glimpse of what world poverty can feel like. At the hostel we lived under the conditions a family living in poverty would every day. This meant no running water, electricity, beans and rice for every meal, and a lot of manual labor. We went out to a rural community, which was about a fifteen minute drive from the city, to work on the lands. What hit me the most was listening to the stories the families shared about their hardships.

The entire time we talked one thing that seemed to keep them strong was having each other as a family.

This day made me realize how much I take my family and the necessary things I need to live for granted. My most memorable day would be the Business/Reality Challenge day. My group woke up at three in the morning to help prepare chabchito con yuka with Lydia, a local street vender. She was kind and happy to have us there to help. Even though it was really early in the morning, it was fun learning how to make a traditional Nicaraguan dish. Lydia enjoys what she does for a living and has been doing it for many years. Everyone we met was friendly and open to share their stories with us.

photo by author

a new perspective

At the hostel I stayed in a room with eight other girls. At home I share a room with my sister but this was a whole lot different. The room was almost always messy. The entire trip I had to take mental notes of where I put my things and make sure my stuff was neat and secure. Our room had a bathroom and we had to organize ourselves in a way so that everyone will get a turn to use it. I would have preferred a room with only one other person but I had to adapt to the living situation. Living in a room with eight other girls was not all bad. It was fun because we got to get to know each other a lot more.

The language barrier was a challenge for me. I knew some Spanish but I barely understood what people were saying. Our Global Glimpse leaders translated for the speakers we met, but I felt limited from the emotions the speakers felt when they said it. I noticed the other students in my group who were fluent in Spanish seemed to have more understanding and they got more out of it. This motivates me to want to learn how to speak Spanish even more.

One of the services we did was free English tutoring. I taught a class with two other students from my group, Yesenya and Nidhi, and the good thing was Yesenya was fluent Spanish. Our challenge was teaching a class that had different levels of English and planning a lesson so that it fit for everyone to learn. Since Yesenya was the fluent speaker of our group, she taught most of the lessons while Nidhi and I helped plan the lessons at the beginning of each day. Thinking of fun and creative lessons was not easy and I now see what it is like to be a teacher.

I was co-leader of the day with another student on our second execution day for our community service project. My leadership style was different than my co-leader; he felt that it was best to get majority and I felt a consensus should be made. He was rushing things while I thought there was no need to rush. Our leadership coach was there to help us settle things but we still didn’t see eye to eye. I tried to stay calm and understand his point of view.

A song

At the end of the day, we finished our community service project. Our purpose was to give the kids in a local hospital a place where they could read, play, or watch movies rather than sit in their beds all day. My entire group worked extremely hard to paint, clean, shop, and so much more to finish remodeling the children’s play area in the hospital. Seeing the many smiling faces of the kids and even parents touched my heart, I couldn’t help but smile too.

I didn’t want to go back home; going back home meant returning to a hectic schedule and my usual responsibilities. Two things I looked forward to going home to were seeing my family and friends and my mom’s cooking. School had already started and I missed the first four days. My first week back, everyone was moving like robots while I felt lost in what I wanted to do. I missed Nicaragua and wished to go back. I was in a place that was the total opposite of Nicaragua. San Francisco was cold and it felt empty and unexciting.

I used to be busy all the time trying to figure out what there is next on my things to do. Now, I am more laid back and I want to take the time to enjoy my life. Whether it be reflecting on my day or spending quality time with friends and family. I learned to appreciate these times even more. I see the world differently. It is more beautiful now than I have ever seen it before. I used to see the ocean as being a huge mass of water. Now I see it as majestic, peaceful, and relaxing. I find joy in breathing in some fresh air and taking in my surroundings. I also see the world in another perspective. It is really big, yet it is small.

Traveling to Nicaragua was amazing. It opened my eyes to a whole other world. Students my age should take these opportunities to travel because I learned a lot about the country and myself through this experience and I know they would too. No one can take away this once in a lifetime experience.

Thank you so much to all of the supporters who made this opportunity possible for me!

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