College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Guest post: Living and working in Nicaragua

Gloria Starns, senior lecturer in mechanical engineering, working in Nicaragua this summer. Photo by Slade Kemmet, an EOS International volunteer.

This post originally appeared on the EOS International blog. It’s written by Gloria Starns, senior lecturer in mechanical engineering. Starns has been to Nicaragua the past two summers with the non-profit Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability (EOS). EOS was founded by ISU engineering alumni and is dedicated to providing sustainable technology to help generate income and improve the health and welfare of Nicaraguan families. To learn more about EOS International, visit

In the short span of 10 days last summer I fell in love with Nicaragua, not in spite of her nuances, but oddly, because of them. Now, a year later, I am back with a new group of students watching them fall in love. It is hard to say what it is about this place that makes you want more of it: the fresh fruits and vegetables, the incredible views from Ocotal, or the seemingly infinite graciousness of its people.

I have learned to be reserved in vocalizing what I wish for because regardless of what it is, the Nicas will go out of their way to make wishes come true. On a recent trip through the countryside I commented on the beauty of a flowering tree. Before I knew it, the driver, EOS technician Milton, was out of the truck and pulling flowers from the tree for every woman in the truck.

Like any other love affair, it has not always been a bed of roses. Forgetting that the Nicas have adapted to drinking water that will bring Americans to their knees is one of those faults that you either accept as part her character or alternatively find too much to overcome. I have decided to overlook it knowing that the virtues I see in Nicaragua far outweigh her foibles. If Cipro won’t cure what ails you, you only need to wish to feel better, and knowing that Nicas make wishes come true, before your can say “doctora, por favor”, there is someone that will either take you to a doctor, is a doctor, or knows what to do until a doctor arrives.

EOS introduced me to Nica and I could not be more grateful for one of the most transformative experiences in my life as well as that of the lives of my students. Other faculty at Iowa State University have expressed interest in teaching this course; truth of the matter be known, I am jealous, as is common in the early stages of a new relationship. As I finished these reflections, a student from UPONIC (Universidad Popular de Nicaragua) delivers a Nicaraguan cappuccino and a delicious sweet bread baked yesterday by an EOS beneficiary. I am in love with Nicaragua.