Located in one of the most ecologically diverse regions in the world, Nicaragua serves international study abroad students with a plate full of natural variety. Beautiful beaches, lush forests, and world-famous lakes and volcanoes all make studying in Nicaragua a naturally wonderful experience.
Geography & Demographics
Nicaragua, the largest country in the region, is situated between Honduras and Costa Rica near the southernmost tip of Central America. Known as the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes, Nicaragua gives students the opportunity to study abroad amidst splendid sceneries. Next to Lake Titicaca, Lake Nicaragua is the second largest lake in Latin America; Lake Nicaragua was originally called the ‘Freshwater Sea,’ because of its vast sprawl and huge waves. This Central American nation also hosts the only lake island in the world with not one, but two volcanoes. Though it used to be plagued with political instability, the country has evolved to become one of the safest countries in Central America.
The Nicaraguan population is made up of more than 50 percent Mestizos, a group of people of mixed European and Amerindian descent, and over 15 percent White, meaning they have Western European ancestry. The majority of Mestizos and Whites live in the western region of Nicaragua. Additionally, less than ten percent of Nicaraguans are Black, a small population of English-speaking Creoles who are typically descendants of shipwrecked slaves. That leaves the indigenous people of Nicaragua, the full Amerindians, as the minority in their native country of around 6 million people.
The climate in Nicaragua is generally tropical, with dry and rainy seasons but no distinct winter period. The country is mostly dry from November to May, and wet from June to October. If you prefer temperate weather, the best time to travel to the country is between November and February, during which the temperature is pleasantly cool and there isn’t much rain.
March to April make up the country’s driest period, the weather often gets so extremely hot that even the tree’s leaves turn yellow. The advantage is that the dry roads make it easier for travel from place to place, in comparison to the wet, muddy regularly inaccessible roads of the wet season. A great deal of humidity comes with the rainy season, helping bugs and insects thrive. But wildlife also blossoms through the rain, visitors even have the rare opportunity of seeing baby turtles hatch and wander out to the sea during the wet season. It is also the perfect time for the surfers to visit the country because the waves are most ideal during the wet season.
Food & Culture
Ninety-eight percent of the Nicaraguans speak Spanish and those on the Atlantic coast speak Miskito and other indigenous languages. Many Nicaraguans speak English as a second language, making it quite easy for foreign English-speakers to get around without expertise in Spanish.
La comida nicaraguense, or the Nicaraguan cuisine, is representative of the nation’s diverse ethnicity, with obvious influences from Spanish, Creole, and indigenous cuisines. Just like other Latin American countries, corn is a staple in Nicaraguan food. Plantains, yuca, beans, pork, and beef are all commonly used ingredients as well. Breakfast is usually served early typically consisting of gallopinto a combination of rice and beans, eggs, fresh fruits, coffee, and orange juice. Lunch is after noon, usually a medium-sized meal that includes rice, steak, vegetables, plantains or salad and fruit juice. Nicaraguans usually eat dinner between seven and nine in the evening, consisting of foods not much different from lunch. Diets go flying out the window on the weekends, as Nicaraguans indulge themselves with a good dose of local specialties. They often start the day with a heavy breakfast meal of Nacatamal, which is a corn masa that incorporates pork, rice, potatoes, and spices. The weekend breakfast is most commonly take later in the morning, because Nicaraguans like to take their time to rest fully on the weekend. After eating breakfast, Nicaraguans can regularly be found taking their leisurely siesta, afternoon nap, in a hammock.
Nicaraguans are known for their big smiles and warm hospitality. Roman Catholicism is the prevalent religion in the country, and Nicaragua is the location of the largest cathedral in Central America, located in the city of Leon. Visitors should, however, take note that Nicaraguans put a lot of value to personal distance and respect. While you can expect a warm welcome and genuine friendship, make sure you don’t step into anybody’s private space.
The Nicaraguans celebrate the so-called Day of the Races, also known as Hispanic Day, every twelfth of October, the commemoration of the arrival of the Spaniards in 1942. Some indigenous groups are opposed to the celebration, claiming that the Spanish colonization is a negative thing. The celebration usually includes mural painting, food fairs, beauty pageants, and many other cultural activities.
The currency of Nicaragua is the cordoba, first implemented as the national currency in the early 1900s. Approximately, 120 cordoba are equal to five U.S. dollars, or four Euros. There is a developing currency that is planned to be implemented among certain countries in Central America and the Caribbean, creating a regional union similar to the European Union, called the SUCRE. Like most of Latin America, Nicaragua can be quite affordable for Westerners in terms of cost of living and in comparison to prices in most of North America and Europe.
Studying in Nicaragua
Programs normally include both academic courses and language courses to broaden the cultural experience of students. Students can easily study the Spanish language while in Nicaragua and become completely immersed in to its use at local markets, during traditional festivals, or by simply interacting with Nicaraguan classmates.
Programs frequently revolve around Nicaragua’s history, encompassing topics like social issues, development, politics, and conflict studies. But due to the environmental beauty of the country, courses in environmental studies and conservation are also common. Study abroad programs also offer students the chance to volunteer in local communities throughout their stay commonly, to help students gain a better understanding of the people and the extent of poverty in the nation.
Most programs provide homestay accommodation for program participants, exemplifying their experience of Nicaraguan culture.