Instructor Perspective: “The Crisis in Nicaragua”

This blog post was written by CGEE Instructor and Program Coordinator in Central America (Nicaragua), Elisa Vanegas. View the course and enroll today online at our Global Gateway!

The Crisis in Nicaragua: U.S. Destabilization or a Democratic Movement? (History 195C)

When I was offered the opportunity to teach an online course on the Nicaraguan crisis, I felt a kick in my stomach. As a Nicaraguan experiencing the turn of events, I felt it would be very difficult, maybe even impossible, to remain unbiased.  However, before I knew it, a YES slipped through the corners of my lips. All the while, beginning to feel uncertain, like the future of my country, on how I would even design this course.  Continue reading “Instructor Perspective: “The Crisis in Nicaragua””

Diversifying Study Abroad Presentation

On February 5, 2019, Augsburg student and CGEE Central America alumni Arianna Antone-Ramirez, gave a wonderful presentation titled, “Diversifying Study Abroad” as her Gilman Project.

Arianna was a winner of the Gilman Scholarship Award, a prestigious national scholarship for study abroad. From the Gilman website: “The Gilman Scholarship Program broadens the student population that studies and interns abroad by supporting undergraduates who might not otherwise participate due to financial constraints.  The program aims to encourage students to study and intern in a diverse array of countries or areas and world regions.” Continue reading “Diversifying Study Abroad Presentation”

CGEE Guest Speaker on Central America

Join CGEE in welcoming our newest instructor, Fernanda Soto Joya, PhD, to the Augsburg campus during International Education Week 2018! Fernanda will be discussing the current political situation in Guatemala & Nicaragua – two of Augsburg’s global study center locations.

The presentation “Social Change and Politics in Nicaragua and Guatemala” is an excellent opportunity for the Augsburg community to be updated on the current events in locations where Augsburg has a global presence, as well as meet CGEE’s newest instructor! Please join us from 3:30 – 4:30 pm in the East Commons on Thursday, November 15th, and enjoy Central American coffee and thoughtful discussion. There will be time for socializing before and after the presentation. Continue reading “CGEE Guest Speaker on Central America”

Update from Guatemala

The El Fuego Volcano in Guatemala erupted this past weekend causing 70+ fatalities and missing persons, damage to towns near the volcano, and the closing of highways and the international airport (now reopened) in Guatemala City.  See recent updates as of June 6.

CGEE programs and staff were not impacted by the eruption. There were no programs running at the time, and our program base is in Quetzaltenago (Xela) which is located over 100 miles from El Fuego.

INGUAT (The Guatemalan Institute of Tourism) made the following statement: “All of the major tourist destinations – such as Tikal National Park, the Semuc Champey Natural Monument, Lake Atitlan, Quetzaltenango,and the Pacaya Volcano, among others – are fully operational and are not under any restrictions….”

Augsburg University’s Center for Global Education & Experience stands in solidarity with those impacted by this tragedy. PBS has compiled a short list of organizations taking donations for the aid of the local people affected.


April 2018 Update: Nicaragua

April 2018 Update: Nicaragua

Despite emerging indications that the government of Nicaragua may work out a peaceful resolution to the civil unrest affecting the country, we have decided to err on the side of caution and end our semester program early. Students have returned to the United States.  We are working with our faculty to develop a plan that will allow students to finish the remaining three weeks of classes from the Nicaragua segment of the program through virtual means.

For organizations with planned custom short-term May programs to Nicaragua, we are discussing possibilities for each on a case by case basis.

While it is entirely possible that the situation in Nicaragua will improve later this week or next, making the decision to end the program early seem unnecessary, student safety—our top priority—requires us to favor current information over speculation.

For questions please contact

Update (Evening of Sunday April 22)

President Ortega has held a press conference announcing the revocation of the social security increase that triggered the street protests, and has invited the business sector and the church to a dialogue. We are not clear if this will be enough to unwind the protests in the coming days, but we are optimistic that the dialogue will bear fruit within a few weeks, restoring calm over the summer.

Update (Morning of Tuesday April 24)

Semester students all confirmed at their gates at the airport, awaiting flights home. Mark Lester, Site Director for CGEE Central America, is with them until all have safely left the country.

CGEE staff and their families remain safe and accounted for.

Now Hiring: Instructor and Project Coordinator

Augsburg University invites applications for the position of Instructor and Project Coordinator for its program in Nicaragua with a proposed start date in May 2018. This position combines teaching and providing support to students from various universities in the US, with field work overseeing rural projects in an alliance with the Winds of Peace Foundation (WPF), based in Managua, Nicaragua.

The Instructor responsibilities involve working with the Director and Central America team to maintain and expand quality programming for Augsburg University, principally by teaching in its Social Change and Community Engagement Semester program and the Xavier University semester program in Nicaragua.

The Project Coordinator responsibilities involve working with a WPF team doing grassroots research and action in support of territorial development. The specific focus will be to provide oversight and follow-up on projects involving indigenous peoples and rural women in Nicaragua.

The combination of the two responsibilities is to promote the internationalization of Augsburg University, and other US universities, by facilitating mutual learning with rural communities in Nicaragua, and then jointly working on the issues that affect them. Current efforts the Nicaragua team is working on include a relationship with the Mathematics Department to calculate impact on the forest of a coffee cooperative on carbon capturing; WPF financing to allow six Augsburg faculty to explore connection between their teaching and rural communities in Nicaragua; and building a video library of local resource people in Nicaragua on topics of interest to the US classroom.

The Instructor and Project Coordinator must be able to work effectively with other members of the Central America team, the WPF team, as well as the different offices of Augsburg University to meet the financial and strategic goals of Augsburg University.  She/He must be an excellent collaborator, both in the classroom and with the rural populations.


Required Skills

A Master’s degree in a related field and fluent in both English and Spanish, experience in Spanish-English/English-Spanish translation and interpretation.

Desirable: Doctorate in relevant field. Experience in project identification and management, ability to analyze basic financial information, including income and expense and balance statements. Experience in relating to peasants and understanding of gender dynamics in rural Nicaragua.

Required Experience

Candidates should also provide evidence of intercultural competence and effective leadership in international and diverse settings. Excellent communication and organizational skills are essential. Experience teaching on the university level is also preferred.

Augsburg University Set in a vibrant, diverse urban neighborhood and centered on student success, Augsburg is deeply committed to civic engagement, experiential learning, undergraduate research, and global education.  The University embraces a distinctive vision of global learning rooted in cross-cultural understanding, social justice, environmental stewardship, and critical thinking.

How to apply Send a cover letter and resume in pdf format to Deadline for receiving applications is March 15, 2018.

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.