Explore Nicaragua a generation after the revolution and find out how young people in Nicaragua and Cuba are creatively advocating for change.
Meet Nicaraguan and Cuban youth who are political protagonists, artists, writers, and media producers.
Examine youth cultures, advocacy, social change, and expression across two generations in Nicaragua and hear comparative perspectives on youth issues during an excursion to Cuba. You will be immersed in the politically charged discourse and cultural life of these two fascinating countries.
Participate in digital literacy workshops with community members.
This program examines the literacy campaigns of the Nicaraguan and Cuban revolutions as points of origin for the expansion of awareness of human, health, and educational rights and as a backdrop to demands for and achievements in information and expression—particularly by youth.
Learn from Nicaraguan and Cuban academic, professional, and community experts.
Resources and partners in Nicaragua typically include Central American University, the Center for Research and Health Studies, the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast, Programa Feminista La Corriente, Centro de Promocion Comunitario San Ramon, and former leaders in the Sandinista National Liberation Front and the Nicaraguan Resistance Party. Resources and partners in Cuba typically include the Institute of Literature and Linguistics and the Asociación Hermanos Saiz, Taller de Transformación, and El Principe.
Work with local radio stations in rural and urban settings.
Help create digital oral histories with Podcasts for Peace in the marginalized community of Acahualinca.
Study youth in radio, poetry and gender, higher education among indigenous students, sexual literacy, and other fascinating independent study topics.
Visit indigenous and Afro-Nicaraguan communities on the Caribbean coast.
Spend 10 days in Cuba.
Interview the architects of Nicaragua’s autonomous feminist movement.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Media | Arts | Social Change
Three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Nicaraguan and Cuban Revolutions, literacy campaigns, and contemporary challenges
- Youth culture and expression in Nicaragua and Cuba
- Youth and questions of access to education, healthcare, and digital media
- Youth and issues of difference (e.g., ethnic, sexual, class, and religious differences)
- Nicaraguan literature, literary styles, and spoken word
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Rewriting Nicaragua: Literacies, Rights, and Social Change – syllabus
- (LACB3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This interdisciplinary seminar provides an overview of Nicaraguan social movements and realities before and since the Nicaraguan Revolution. Students analyze the literacy campaigns of the revolution as a point of origin for the expansion of awareness of basic rights (human rights, access to education and healthcare, sexual and religious freedoms, etc.) and as a backdrop to current demands for both information and expression. How did these earlier movements set the stage for the next generation's own call for social change and expanded freedoms? Through lectures, readings, site visits, and excursions, as well as a brief comparative study with Cuba, students gain knowledge and critical perspectives on post-revolutionary Nicaragua, which provide them with a framework in which to study contemporary youth culture and expression. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.
- Re-imagining Nicaragua: Youth Culture, Media, and Expression – syllabus
- (LACB3005 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this second seminar, students explore Nicaragua's youth culture. They question who the term "youth" refers to and how understandings of adolescence and early adulthood have evolved. Is there a parallel to the Millennial generation in Nicaragua? Can we really speak of a global youth culture in less than equitable situations? In what spaces and genres and how and to whom are today's young people in Nicaragua and, to a lesser degree, Cuba expressing themselves? What are the themes they want to discuss? How do gender, class, and ethnicity intersect with these desires? How does higher education enter (or not enter) into these efforts? How will this generation leave a mark and be heard? Students read works from a range of disciplines and sources (governmental, popular, academic) and interact with youth in different contexts, as well as participating in lectures and discussions about these issues. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.
- Spanish Communication and Expression in Contemporary Nicaragua I – syllabus
- (SPAN2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish Communication and Expression in Contemporary Nicaragua II – syllabus
- (SPAN3003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish Communication and Expression in Contemporary Nicaragua III – syllabus
- (SPAN3503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this decidedly non-traditional course, students will enhance and expand their expressive capacity in Spanish through a wide range of oral, reading, and writing activities. They will develop both aural and oral skills through radio, podcasts, music, poetry, political speeches and propaganda, everyday conversation, and vernacular expressions while deepening their understanding across class and region and moving toward speaking at the level of a highly educated native speaker. Students will also study Nicaraguan literature, participate in writing workshops (often with community members), and learn to write in different styles, genres, and registers. This course is heavily oriented toward assuring that students are prepared for the Independent Study Project while also directly supporting/enhancing learning throughout the entire experience.
- Research Methods and Ethics: Youth, Arts-Based Inquiry, Digital Media – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this research methods course designed to prepare students for the Independent Study Project, students learn how to organize and conduct a research project. Through lectures, readings, and field activities, students study and practice a range of qualitative, digital, and arts-based methods appropriate for researching the program's themes. They examine the ethical issues surrounding field research related to working with youth and with more public digital media forms, and they are guided through the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review process, which forms a core component of the course. By the end of the course, students will have chosen a research topic, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an Independent Study Project. Most coursework is conducted in English.
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- Conducted in Managua or other approved locations appropriate to the project, the Independent Study Project offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice within the program's thematic parameters. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program and culminates in a final presentation and formal research paper. Sample topic areas: youth and radio; tweets and texts in Nicaragua; art and protest over two generations; sexual literacy and expression in Managua; poetry, politics, and gender; higher education and identity among indigenous students. Projects can be written in English or Spanish.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
This program includes short site visits, typically around Managua, and longer excursions, including one to Cuba. In the spring semester, the program travels to the city of Granada for the International Poetry Festival, where you will be immersed in Nicaraguan poetry, music, and literary presentations. In the fall semester the program is in Cuba for the annual weeklong celebration of Cuban Culture.
Short site visits may include the National Palace, the Workers’ Plaza, and the birthplace of Carlos Fonseca, founder of FSLN. You will also visit NGOs and rights organizations including the Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos, the Red de Mujeres Contra la Violencia, and La Corriente, an NGO that focuses on issues involving youth and sexuality.
You will frequently go to radio stations, a key form of expression and communication in Nicaragua. In Managua, you will visit the Radio Universitaria and Podcasts for Peace. In rural areas, you will visit sites such as the Radio Palabra de la Mujer in Bocana de Paiwas. You may help create vignettes and public service spots during these experiences.
Longer excursions include a small community in Nicaragua to learn about the lives of rural Nicaraguan youth. This may include communities of agricultural day laborers and/or cooperatives.
You will travel to the southern Caribbean coast to visit indigenous and Afro-Nicaraguan communities and the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, which serves Miskito, Afro-Caribbean, and Garífuna students.
The 10-day excursion to Cuba provides a compelling comparative case study between Nicaragua and Cuba. Based in Havana, the academic excursion is coordinated through the Instituto de Literatura y Lingüísticas. You will examine youth issues and literacy, including both traditional and modern types of communication. You will hear lectures from researchers at the Centro de Investigaciones Psicológicas y Sociológicas and visit groups like the Asociación Hermanos Saíz, an organization of young Cuban writers and artists devoted to the artistic and literary expression of their intellectual vanguard movement. Other sites may include Taller de Transformación, an inner-city community in central Havana.
ISP Video: Eli Laban
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Benjamin James Waddell, PhD, Academic Director
Benjamin holds a PhD in sociology and an MA in Latin American studies from the University of New Mexico, and a BA in international affairs from University of Colorado, Boulder. A first-generation college student who grew up in Colorado and New Mexico, at about age 12 Ben began working on construction sites in and around Telluride, Colo., where he met many immigrants from Latin America. Captivated by their astounding efforts to overcome adversity, in college Ben chose to study issues related to poverty, inequality, and emigration in the Americas. In 2004, he traveled to Nicaragua as an undergraduate student to study with the School for International Training’s program on Revolution, Transformation and Development. This experience inspired him to pursue a career in higher education.
Ben researches the impact of international migration on human well-being. He has published papers in Sociology of Development, Latin American Research Review, and The Social Science Journal. From 2011-16 Ben was a professor of sociology at a liberal arts college in southern Colorado. He has led students abroad each summer to Nicaragua and Cuba to study sustainable development. His goal as an educator is to help students imagine a better world, and in time, contribute to making it a better place.
María Teresa Fuentes López, Program Assistant
María Teresa has worked with SIT Nicaragua since she finished her university studies in 2004. She has a BA in international tourism and administration and is currently doing an MBA. She has taken postgraduate courses in English, computers, and sustainable tourism. María Teresa works out of the study center, which is located in the homestay neighborhood of Colonia Máximo Jérez. She participated in an SIT homestay coordinators’ workshop in Chile and coordinates all of the homestay activities with the program’s homestay coordinator.
Petrona Hernandez, Homestay Coordinator
Affectionately known to the students as “Mamita,” Petrona works with María Teresa to coordinate homestay families. A longtime resident and community leader in Colonia Máximo Jérez, Petrona networks with neighborhood security committees and other neighborhood initiatives. She regularly visits the homestay families and students and monitors access to the study center on weekends and hours.
Álvaro Cermeño, Security Officer
Álvaro has worked with SIT Nicaragua since 2008. He studied computer science at the National University of Engineering and has taken courses in accounting and community security. A regular presence in the study center during office hours, Álvaro is available to accompany students to their homes in the evenings and to help students with taxis and other security measures. He may be called on to accompany students to their homes on weekend nights.
Faculty and lecturers typically include:
María Teresa Blandón Gadea, MA
María Teresa earned her BA in social sciences from the Central American University (UCA) and went on to complete an MA at the University of Barcelona in gender and development. She is director of the gender and development master’s program at UCA and serves as a consultant with NGOs and multinational organizations. María Teresa has taught numerous postgraduate courses including Investigation with a Gender Focus, Feminist Theory, Identity and Subjectivity, Sexuality and Reproductive Rights, and Citizenship. She is the founder and regional coordinator of La Corriente, a Central American feminist organization launched in 1993 that strengthens the women’s movement in Central America through research, analysis, and debate.
Guillermo Pérez Leiva, MA, MBA
Guillermo is a retired officer from the Nicaraguan army and a founder of the Sandinista Popular Army. He joined the Sandinista guerrilla movement in the early 1970s and later studied military science in Havana and Minsk. He holds an MBA and an MA in history from the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. He is a published poet and a student of indigenous and global spirituality. He is a member of the Global Crisis Observatory and serves on the advisory committee for the Latin American branch of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
Dora María Téllez, Lead Instructor, MA
Dora María defines herself as a historian and consultant by trade and a militant of the Sandinista Renovation Movement by vocation. She received her MA in history from the Central American University (UCA) in Managua. She is a professor at UCA, the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast, and the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. Dora María joined the Sandinista National Liberation Front in 1977. She was named to the state council, where she served as the vice president until 1984, and she served in the National Assembly from 1985 to 1991. She is an associate of the Historical Institute of Nicaragua and Central America and serves as an advisor to Juventud Renovadora.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
During the course of the program, you will live with three different homestay families. In Managua and a rural homestay in Matagalpa, you will be placed individually with families. In central Havana, you will stay in casas particulares, where there is often more than one student per home. The opportunity to engage with youth in these settings allows you to compare and contrast the program’s core issues in three very distinct sites.
During the first approximately six weeks of the program, you will live with a host family in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital and largest city, home to more than two million people. Managua is known as the city “where the streets have no names.” While this can be challenging at first, students learn to navigate the streets through historic reference points. As Nicaragua’s economic and political center, Managua has a wide variety of cultural offerings, including theaters, museums, and a highly appreciated cuisine.
You will live with a homestay family in Colonia Máximo Jérez, a working-class neighborhood centrally located in the city. This was also the community where many supporters of the Sandinista Revolution lived during the 1980s and is the subject of several ethnographies written by US scholars. During his visit to Nicaragua in 1987, Salmon Rushdie stayed in Máximo Jérez, where he wrote The Jaguar Smiles.
In this extremely under-resourced area, you will experience a different facet of Nicaragua. Here, you will witness the impact of the war of the 1980s and current economic and political realities. You will stay with a campesino family who may own their own parcel of land or may be farmworkers for larger agricultural producers, primarily coffee producers. Struggles due to the lack of infrastructure and social services present challenges for these families. Many benefited from the National Literacy Campaign and the Sandinista Agrarian Reform. This is also the site of many talleres de poesia (poetry workshops).
During the 10-day academic excursion to Cuba, you will stay in casas particulares with Cuban families near the program’s host institution, the Institute for Literature and Linguistics in Havana. This opportunity to interact with Cubans in their homes brings authenticity and depth to the excursion and allows you to better understand the challenges facing Cuban families today.
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
Through a final independent research project, you will explore a specific issue related to youth culture and expression. You may conduct research for your ISP in Managua or other sites in Nicaragua, as approved by the academic director.
Sample ISP topics:
- Youth and radio
- Poetry, politics, and gender
- Higher education and identity among indigenous students
- Social media and Nicaraguan youth
- Arts and handicrafts over generations
- Sexual literacy and education in Nicaragua
- Cultural expressions for afro-Caribbean youth
Students who participate in this program represent a wide range of colleges, universities, and majors. Many of them have gone on to do academic or professional work that connects back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Public defender, Milwaukee, WI
- Community outreach and intern supervisor at Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Minneapolis, MN
- Intern with the White House Domestic Policy Council, Washington, DC
- PhD candidate at Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT), Boston, MA
- Environmental journalist with The Huffington Post, Washington, DC
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
Tuition: Not yet available.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Political and economic history
- Social movements and civil society
- Culture of peace
- Coastal culture and identity
- Field Study Seminar on research methods and Human Subjects Review
- Intensive language instruction in Spanish
- All educational excursions to locations such as Matagalpa and Cuba
- Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: Not yet available.
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Managua), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays (six weeks in Managua, one week in Matagalpa, and 10 days in Havana, Cuba)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $ 25
Books & Supplies: $100
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.