By: Priyanka Bagrodia, Georgetown student and GU Impacts member
I remember that in the beginning, I was frequently clenching my teeth so as to not outwardly express the intense frustration I felt within. In one instance, we had just spent a week coming up with a marketing strategy for a start-up tour company when they asked us to change the logo and the name, whilst also informing us that the company had dropped from twenty employees to three and that they could only afford to make their work as tour guides a part-time job. My team got back to work (with no small amount of private grumbling), and a week later we were back with a new marketing strategy and new deliverables. We learned to work with and for our clients, providing what business savvy we could, but more importantly, respecting their vision and their work conditions. At the end, when I was asked to describe my experience in Nicaragua in one word, I chose humbling. I got the chance to learn how to interact in and adapt to a new environment where people possessed enormous potential and just lacked the guiding framework in which to develop their ideas. We weren’t coming in as teachers but as partners, providing what help we could to enormously talented people.
To provide context, I chose to go to Nicaragua because I was interested in immersing myself in a new culture. In Nicaragua, I was thrown in a new environment with a new family, with new friends, with a new type of work, and most fundamentally, a new way of life. Most obviously, the language barrier proved to be the most difficult given that I only spoke Spanish at an intermediate level, but I learned to supplement my broken Spanish with gestures and demonstrations, preparing scripts beforehand when necessary. I learned that blank faces did not mean a lack of interest, showing up late was not a sign of disrespect, and those who corrected my grammar were those who really cared. I desensitized myself when helping out Nicaraguans, and even more importantly, I learned to relax. The Nicaraguans I worked with were very laid back and did not mind delays, taking one-two hour breaks in the middle of the day and always leaving to go home at five pm. And as I acclimatized to the culture, I clenched my teeth less and learned to go with the flow. Additionally, even as I was learning more about the culture, I was learning more about myself. I learned that I could get impatient quite fast, did not like squabbling over the details and liked being involved in work that dealt with overarching themes and main objectives. I also learned how important it was for me to really connect with the people I was working with. Hard work for me became a bonding experience when I had people to laugh with, and I am so lucky that I got the opportunity to meet some truly amazing people. I hope to stay in touch with them long into the future, and though I was ready to go home at the end of two hot months, I was truly sad to leave such a beautiful country with such great people. I hope to return in the future!
The views, opinions, and positions expressed by the author of this article do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University or any employee thereof.