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On January 15th of 2018, I, along with 17 other Denison students, traveled to Nicaragua under the guidance of the Medical Brigades, a national non-profit organization. To be honest, I was terrified. 18 strangers, flying to an unknown place, with little to no expectations. Wonderful.

When we arrived, culture shock set in…hardcore. The first night we stayed at a five-star hotel in Managua. But America’s version of “five-star” is much different than Nicaragua’s. I cried the first night, admittedly. So did a few others.

The next day, we left and traveled three hours north to our compound where we’d be staying for the duration of the trip. The place was truly beautiful. Very different from the inner-city that Managua was. We all felt safer here and more at home. Moments like these were the most influential in retrospect.After a few days, when we all had worked with patients in triage and consultation, we began to understand the severity of the living conditions in Nicaragua. The lack of accessible, non-contaminated drinking water was incomprehensible to many of us. Almost every child that we saw was infected with parasites, every adult was ill with gastritis, young children had heart attacks, teenagers were mothers and fathers, and the list goes on and on.

But there was something different about the communities in Nicaragua than the ones we commonly see in the states; everyone genuinely cared about one another, whether it be a sister and brother or a young child and one of us. The kids loved us with all their little hearts and were so intrigued by our language and skills. We weren’t always able to communicate clearly or effectively, but they still enjoyed playing soccer, kickball, or even patty-cake with us. The love we felt was something more than extraordinary.

We saw and felt so many things. And to this day all of these experiences and emotions are difficult to put into words.

We tried not to pity these people because we all knew that despite their medical problems, they loved their lives and their families. They didn’t want for what we have here; they found their happiness through the little things. Children weren’t attached to their phones all day because in all honesty, most of them had never been able to see or feel one. But they were happier for it. Unlike the kids in our country who have endless technological distractions, these children found happiness playing with sticks and dirt. Although we felt sad at times, we had moments of clarity.

This trip was incredible for growing and changing, but also for bonding and building everlasting friendships. I grew close to every single student on the trip, something that I will forever cherish.

I’m a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority here on campus, and a handful of my sisters attended. In Nicaragua, over three-thousand miles away from Denison’s campus, I grew closer to many of my sisters in ways I never had in Ohio. I found love and humor in their hearts and we became each other’s shoulder to cry on.

I love the things that this trip opened my eyes to, but I truly am moved by the ways I connected with strangers and the way I grew with friends. This experience was the trip of a lifetime and I can feel the ways in which I’m changing.

I will forever remember the patients and the children I saw, but one thing that will never escape my heart are the things I felt. These are the moments that changed me.

Nicaragua is the where I found who I am and who I’m meant to be.

Te amaré por siempre, Nicaragua.

Just an average girl, living in an average world, with an above average love for love.
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