Engineering a Nicaraguan adventure

Story originally posted by Iowa State University.

In Nicaragua, they have a saying, “Que le vaya bien,” which means “may you travel well.” For a few Iowa State engineering students, their travels to Nicaragua for a design course went beyond what they ever could have imagined. That’s because while they were there, they had the opportunity to impact the lives of Nicaraguans for the better.

The students went to Nicaragua to build a biochar reactor and install ram pumps to help local farmers increase their crop yields. While the students were there, they discovered that sometimes the best way to learn is by getting outside of the classroom.

“Not many people can say they designed and implemented a project in Nicaragua,” said Liz Sweeney, senior in mechanical engineering. Josh Marlin, senior in civil engineering, echoes that sentiment. “This trip offered a unique challenge — to truly design with empathy,” Marlin said. “Not many programs have you sit down with groups of locals and have long conversations about the challenges they face, the concerns they have and the things they value.”

Even better yet, while the students were on their journey, they were immersed in Nicaraguan culture. Said Ryan Williams, sophomore in mechanical engineering, “We got to take many trips to different parts of the country. We went volcano surfing and stayed with host families. We got to actually roast coffee and make fresh tortillas. We learned a lot about the culture.” They also made lifelong friends along the way. “I had no idea I would end up creating such amazing relationships with people whom I did not share a common language with,” Marlin said.

At Iowa State, we have a saying that goes, “Choose your adventure.” Whether you choose to take a course in Nicaragua for a month or study abroad in Rome for an entire year, it’s like Liz Sweeney says, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You will not come back the same person — in all the best ways.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Learn more about this study abroad adventure.

Also, learn about other Cyclones and their adventures and nominate a Cyclone whose adventure story needs to be shared.

Boyoung Jin, Josh Marlin, Liz Sweeney, Josh Wahl and Ryan Williams studied abroad in Nicaragua.