Monday, January 5, 2009

Pre-Trip Reflections: Toni Coringrato

My name is Toni Coringrato and I am a senior at Gettysburg College majoring in Health Sciences. My goal is to attend medical school in the next couple of years and maybe do some public health work. I studied abroad in Wollongong, Australia for a semester and loved traveling around the country. I am in the pre-health professions club on campus and have two work study jobs. One is at an elementary school working with children and the other is in the athletic training room in our college gym. I am looking forward to this trip being a fun and rewarding experience!

Pre-Trip Reflections

I am a bit nervous, but very excited, for this trip to Nicaragua. The thing I am most nervous about is the language barrier because I don’t know any Spanish, nor am I good at learning foreign languages. I’ve heard this is easily overcome with hand gestures and pictures but I still worry a bit. I am excited to find out who I will be living with and meet my host family though. I have a small family, there are only 3 of us, so living with another family will be quite different for me.

I wanted to do this trip because after spending a semester in Australia, I realized how much of the world there is to see. Australian culture is very similar to American cultures, but it made me realize how different the world can be. I want to be able to experience other cultures and the best way to do that is through an immersion project.


Before the Sandinistas came to power in 1979, Nicaragua had one of the poorest education systems in Latin America. Under the Somozas, there was limited spending on education and poverty led children to go into the labor market. This resulted in only 65% of primary school children being enrolled in school and of those that made it to first grade, only 22% finished the remaining six years of primary school. At this time, only ¼ of the rural population was literate and rural schools only offered one or two years of schooling. The secondary schools were too expensive for most Nicaraguans. About 8% of the population was enrolled at university and some upper-class families sent their children abroad for higher education.

After only five years in power, the Sandinista government managed to double the ratio of GNP (gross national product) which was spend on pre-university education. This money helped to increase the number of primary and secondary school teachers and the number of schools. In 1980, a literacy campaign was developed, which helped decrease the literacy rate from 50% to 23%. The government also set up Popular Education Cooperatives for residents of poor communities to develop basic reading and mathematical skills. Both adults and struggling children used the system set in place.

The Sandinistas also helped restructure the higher education system. They made higher education more accessible and replaced law, humanities, and social sciences with degrees that would help the country more, such as agriculture, medicine, education, and technology. By 1993, however, Nicaragua still had a large population of people that were uneducated, caused by not enough educational facilities to meet the growing population. The country is still working on helping the education problem and people in the country are becoming more interested in getting better education. Both elementary and high school educations are now mandatory and free for society. Several of the Nicaraguan universities have formed affiliations with different universities in the United States and the Nicaraguan government is increasing funding to improve the education available.C

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