Kathy Memories!

Calling all alumni of CGEE Central America semester programs and Nicaragua short term programs!

Kathy McBride is officially retiring after 30 years of dedicated service to the Center for Global Education and Experience. Yes – you read that  right – 30 years.

We want to send her off into retirement with fantastic memories of the students she has taught over the decades. We are looking for alumni to submit short videos or writings about their memories of Kathy.

How can you add your memories? Please use this survey link to add your memories. You can upload photos and videos at this link as well!

What do we want?

  • old photos of Kathy from previous programs
  • your written memories of Kathy
  • your written appreciation and/or goodbyes for Kathy
  • a video blog of your memories and/or goodbyes


Please do this by Friday, October 20th. 

Now Hiring: International Resident Assistants

Augsburg CGEE currently has two job openings for International Resident Assistants (IRA’s).

What do IRA’s do?

The International Resident Assistant promotes a healthy living/learning environment for semester students and participants in short-term educational seminars and assist in the operation of all educational programs. Proficiency in both English and Spanish is a must for both! These positions are suited well for recently graduated undergrads. See full job descriptions and apply at:

MEXICO IRA POSITION: Application deadline is November 1st.

CENTRAL AMERICA IRA POSITION: Application deadline is October 17th.



Student Profile: Caleb

Caleb completed two of CGEE’s semester programs in a year, Central America and Southern Africa! Here is his profile with reflections on what he learned during his year abroad:

Student headshot photoName: Caleb Encarnacion-Rivera

School: Clark University

CGEE Programs:

Social Change in Central America: Exploring Peace, Justice, and Community Engagement (Spring 2016)

Nation Building, Globalization and Decolonizing the Mind (Fall 2016)

Major: International Development

Most valuable experience: There are so many things I found valuable during my time abroad with CGEE.  In Central America, the most valuable experience was being able to live in homestays.  Homestays allowed me to build and cultivate long lasting relationships I will cherish for the rest of my life.  Living in homestays enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of the regions I was living in through the lens of local people.  Living in my home stays gave me new family members that I will never forget.  In Namibia, my internship was definitely the highlight of my experience.  I absolutely loved every moment of being able to serve in the city I was living in as well, as learn and grown from directly working with Namibian youth.  My internship gave me the ability to not only learn or study in a foreign country, but gain work experience, and establish new networks beyond that of the United States.

Why encourage others to study abroad with CGEE: Both programs are life changing in numerous ways.  I will cherish these moments for the rest of my life.  If you are looking for an authentic study abroad experience these are the programs for you!

Life changing experience in Nicaragua

This is a guest post from Mary Witt Scholarship Recipient, Amanda Friesel, who traveled on a customized trip to Nicaragua with a group of social work students from Ohio State University in May, 2017. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Amanda!


Hola! First and foremost, I want to thank everyone that works for the Center for Global Education and Experience, especially César, Ruth, and Hector (our driver)! Everyone was so welcoming and helpful during our time in Central America. Traveling to Nicaragua for a two-week study abroad trip was a life changing and extremely educational experience! This is something that will stay with me forever! From the time that I stepped off the plane until the time I arrived back at the Managua airport my experience was a whirlwind.

Amanda in Nicaragua
Amanda in Nicaragua
With some of her host family members.
With some of her host family members.

During our first few days in Nicaragua we met with Joseph Connelly from CGEE and visited NicaHOPE. Joseph gave us a history lesson on Nicaragua. This first session really piqued my interest. We learned a great deal about the relationship between Nicaragua and the US as well as the corruption and manipulation that the US forced upon the Nicaraguan culture. In addition to that, we learned about the division of the country. The eastern side of Nicaragua is very rural and distant from the western side of Nicaragua. Joseph explained that the two sides of the country are like their own country as they operate separately even though they are under the same government. The eastern side is more autonomous and take justice into their own hands. We also learned about FSLN and the Contra War that former President Ronald Reagan put forth during his time in office in the 1980s. At NicaHOPE we learned that this organization works with kids from the previous local trash dump community. Though the community has a recycling plant now instead of a trash dump, the children are still being helped. The organization was created to teach the kids other ways to make money so they don’t have to leave school to work at the trash dump. They make homemade jewelry to sell. We also had a chance to tour the facilities and buy some of the jewelry that was handmade.

During the next few days we spent time in León, Nicaragua. This is also the time that we had our homestays. Lauren (another student) and I stayed with Professor Juan and Professor Ruth who are both social work professors at UNAN – León. When Professor Juan welcomed us into their home, he also told us that we are now a part of their family. He told us we could call him Papa Juan, Professor Ruth – Mama Ruth and Naza, Maria and Natalie our sisters. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner with our host families, exchanged English and Spanish teaching lessons and even watched TV with them. Also, while in León we had the pleasure of meeting with some of the social work students in León and get insight into how social work differs in Nicaragua compared to that in the United States. While in León we also visited La Casona and CIDS.

Once back in Managua we had the pleasure of hearing from Julio Mena, the director of ANiCP+ViDA. This organization works on the prevention and education of HIV and AIDS. Julio told us about his life story. He was affected with HIV during the Contra War because he was wounded and another soldier gave him some of his own blood to help him survive. He didn’t know he had HIV so he ended up infecting his daughter, who eventually passed away at 6 years old, and his girlfriend. He experienced years and years of guilt, shame, isolation, discrimination, etc. because of this. Even though it was not his fault that he was infected and did not know he was infected until a year later, Julio was still shamed and stigmatized. Because of what he experienced, he decided to work in the outreach and education field in regard to HIV and AIDS. We also spoke with a former Sandinista guerrilla from the Contra War (The war Ronald Reagan waged on Nicaragua), Maria Teresa Blandón. Not only did she speak of her time being a part of the revolution at the age of only 17 years old, but she also spoke of feminism. She compared and differed it in the US and Nicaragua. She also touched on marriage and why she doesn’t believe in it. She touched on some good points, such as religion, which is necessary in society, but there need to be limits to it. Religion calls for absolute power, and if we give that then we are all doomed. When she talked about the Contra War and the revolution she was involved in, she mentioned that the cost they paid was too high. Too many young people lost their lives in the war, and in the end, it was for nothing. It made me sad and mad all at the same time. Hearing her story and listening to her words, certainly inspired me to be a part of such huge change when I return to the States.

While also in Managua we visited Casa Alianza which is residential center for young people who are victims of human trafficking, rape, sexual abuse, abuse in general, domestic violence, etc., and for teen mothers. With human trafficking being my background and the career area I want to go into in regard to social work, I was so excited once we arrived. I had so many questions for the employees once they were finished telling us about the organization. One thing that caught my attention is that she said even if they help the people legally prosecute their perpetrator, it doesn’t always mean they will be held accountable, as the government does not want their crime numbers to increase so it is certainly a challenge to try to prosecute the criminals. This visit was truly my favorite one!

Our next location that we traveled to was Granada, Masaya and Matagalpa. We first went to Masaya Volcano Park and got to see a real live active volcano which was spontaneous and exciting! Then, in Granada we spent the day at Lagoon Apoyo and visited Café Sonrisas. The owner of the café specifically works with people with disabilities. They make homemade hammocks and serve great food! We experienced what it is like to be a part of their “world”. We were given ear plugs to put in our ears and eat part of our lunch with them in. The point of it was so that we could try to get a glimpse into what their lives are like with no hearing. This activity certainly touched me. In San Juan Oriente, Masaya, Nicaragua we visited a potter and indigenous leader, Valetín Lopez. He explained that San Juan Oriente, Masaya is an indigenous town and basically everyone does pottery work. He showed us the process on how to make the pottery and gave us an insight to their past culture and present one too. The process that they currently use to make pottery, is the same process their ancestors used except for a kick wheel that decreases the process from 2 hours to 5 mins to shape the pot. In Matagalpa, we spent basically the entire day on Monday at the co-op. We learned how to make homemade tortillas, how to use natural plants for medicine and preventative care, and even made cough syrup. We watched their native dancing and listened to their culture’s songs. We met with the children of the school and really learned the ins and outs of the co-op and community. Unfortunately, I was not able to see the actual coffee trees due to my allergen of bees. Once we finished at the co-op I experienced my first ever tasting of a hot chocolate coffee which tasted amazing considering I dislike coffee. The coffee grown and then used in the cafe, was from the co-op and surrounding community.

At Cafe Sonrisas
At Cafe Sonrisas
Weaving at Cafe Sonrisas
Weaving at Cafe Sonrisas
With some of the co-op community children.
With some of the co-op community children.

One thing that was common in the organizations we visited is that they have NEVER received government funding from the current administration which has been in power for about the last 15 years. This saddened me, but surprised me at the same time. ALL the organizations and institutions we visited were doing amazing work and for them to not have any government funding is mind boggling to me. Not only did that impress me, but it also motivated me to learn how they do it, and take that information back to the non-profits I work with and implement that. There is something amazing about the fight and drive that people in “3rd world” countries have. This is certainly something that all “1st world” countries can learn from.

During my time in Nicaragua not only did we engage with the Nicaraguan people and their culture, but we also got to understand how even through corruption and economic hardship, they stand tall and fight the social injustices that affect their society and community daily. I’m filled with gratitude for being able to experience such an amazing culture, and motivation to take back what I learned from the NGOs and institutions we visited to the United States and be the change I want to see in the world. I am filled with hurt and disgust at what the United States was involved in which affected the Nicaraguan people gravely. It is hard to go to a “3rd world” country to learn from the people and their history, when the people have nothing, but negative things to say about the horrific history the two countries share. Even with the negative history that the US shares with Nicaragua, the people welcomed us with open arms. They were delighted to discuss their history and the current issues that they face. We shared ideas, viewpoints, hugs, pictures, and history. Through these things, we could learn from one another on the same ground level and that was an amazing experience. I am more humble and appreciative of the freedoms we have in the US since returning home.

Once again, I want to say thank you so much from everyone at Augsburg College and the Center for Global Experience and Education for providing me the opportunity to experience Nicaragua and the Nicaraguan culture. I am a different, but better person because it and I cannot put into words how grateful and humbled I am for this experience.

My Journey to Guatemala

This is a guest blog post by a Mary Witt Scholarship recipient, Libby M. Libby recently returned from a customized program with Xavier University-Occupational Therapy to Guatemala in May 2017. Thanks for the great reflection, Libby!

My time in Guatemala was one that I will never forget. During the first week I had the opportunity to live with a host family. My host mother was beyond hospitable and kind. She made delicious meals and we talked through the nigh about our families and friends. On my last day staying with her she even allowed me to try on traditional Guatemalan clothing. But I think my favorite part of staying with my host family was being able to try the delicious homemade hot chocolate, which consisted of chocolate made from my host grandmother who makes her own natural chocolate. It was absolutely amazing. The time even allowed me to improve my awful Spanish, through hand gestures and broken Spanish I somehow got through the week communicating with my host family who did not speak any English at all. Hopefully one day I will be able to visit them again.

Continue reading “My Journey to Guatemala”

Connecting with your Roots

This post comes from Augsburg student, Kitana H, recipient of the CGEE Religious Studies Scholarship. This is her reflection from the week-long program in Nicaragua, “Faith, Vocation, and Social Change in Central America”. Thank you to Kitana for sharing!


“Today is the day where I touch a region

Where half of me is from

I’ve been so lost with my own identity

That part of this trip may open a page

Of a book of reclaiming my identity and history”

Student with arms open on a hillside

Continue reading “Connecting with your Roots”

Reflections from Nicaragua

This post comes from Mary Witt Scholarship awardee and Augsburg College student, Emily O. She recently returned from an Augsburg short term program, Faith, Vocation and Social Change in Central America to Augsburg’s Global Site in Nicaragua. Thanks to Emily for sharing!

Grassy knoll overlooking lake
View in Nicaragua

Here is my written summary, discussing 3 separate “slices of life,” or important experiences in Nicaragua and what they taught me:

My first slice of life had to do with the speaker at Cafe las Sonrisas, Tio Antonio.  As someone who grew up in an area considered “developed” like me, I was shocked that he even moved to Nicaragua in the first place.  After the initial confusion as to why he would move to a country where things are so different, I was amazed and inspired by the way he lived out his vocation and listened to his calling in life.  Continue reading “Reflections from Nicaragua”

Global Coffee Culture Trip

The following is a summary of a recent Customized Program organized by CGEE for Providence College, by student Danielle H., recipient of the Mary Witt Scholarship. This program took place in March of 2017. Photos from Danielle as well. We hope all participants had a wonderful time and learned a lot on the program!

The Global Coffee Culture Trip I took with my class, organized by Augsburg College’s Center for Global Education and Experience, was life-changing.  Throughout the trip, I was immersed in Guatemala’s rich culture, history, and language.  I have never become so close with people in a class in such a short period of time or learned so much in such a short period of time.

Panoramic view in Guatemala

Continue reading “Global Coffee Culture Trip”

Meeting Family in Guatemala: An Alumni Story

This blog post was originally presented to CGEE staff as a thank you letter. We were very touched by Stephanie’s experience, and wanted to share with others. Posted here with permission from the author, Stephanie Gonzales-Pérez. The words have not been altered in any way.


I wanted to take the time to extend my gratitude through this letter. I am a recent alum of the CGEE Central America Program of Spring 2016. The program itself was truly life changing and as cliché as that may sound there are no other words to better describe it.

The mission of your programs is to give us another lens and to decolonize our minds which is a prime reason why I was interested in the program. Along with the constant recommendation from my study abroad advisor, Ann Butwell. Which is why I want to thank Berea College and Augsburg’s Center for Global Education and Experience because without all your help this would not have been possible. I was hesitant at first because of the cost, but both institutions provided me with scholarships that reduced the cost to nearly nothing.

Aside from how perfect the program already was due to my passion for social justice I was also drawn in because the program went to Guatemala specifically to Quetzaltenango, or also known as Xela, which is where my maternal grandmother lives. I had told my family about my trip and they were beyond ecstatic to finally meet in person after only having contact through letters, phone calls and Skype my entire life. I will be honest I had originally planned to go in the spring of 2015, but I felt guilty going and backed out because my mother has not seen my grandmother for over 25 years and it didn’t feel right to go before she did. My mother had the chance to return home; however, she made the ultimate sacrifice when I was 10 and that was not to move back to Guatemala with my father. She knew that the United States could provide us with more opportunities than her own country could. Continue reading “Meeting Family in Guatemala: An Alumni Story”

CGEE Represented at Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice

Joe Connelly, consultant and frequent leader of Customized Programs for the Center for Global Education and Experience in Nicaragua, will be presenting at the Annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, in Washington, D.C.

On Saturday, November 12th, Joe will be co-presenting on, “Beyond the Break: Moving to Action and Advocacy”. From IFTJ’s website:

Did you have an amazing experience on an Immersion Trip over a break but aren’t sure what to do with that now? Do you want to take that experience to the next level and see how you can use it as a building block to get the most out of the Teach In? Join us in this pre-session to go beyond your break. Reflect on you what learned on your break, hear from a service immersion host site about what they’d like to see people doing after they leave, and see where your gifts and passions might put you on the Social Change Wheel and how that can turn into advocacy.

We are honored that Joe will be representing us at this event!

Student group outside in Nicaragua
Joe Connelly leads a lecture for students in Granada, Nicaragua. Spring 2015.