Ellis Student Travels to Nicaragua & Cuba

Megumi Kivuva, Class of 2018, traveled to Nicaragua and Cuba this summer as the recipient of the 2017 Marcie WATERMAN Love ’56 International Travel Grant for the Global Empowerment of Women and Girls. Megumi spent close to a month in Central America and the Caribbean learning, exploring, and getting to know the countries’ culture, people, and history thanks to the WATERMAN Love grant. 
After initially considering a proposal to travel to South Africa, Megumi chose to venture somewhere she could practice her Spanish language skills and pursued an opportunity with The Experiment in International Living. The program “Nicaragua and Cuba: Arts & Social Change” offered students the chance to observe city and rural life, visit historical sites, participate in a homestay, and attend seminars, workshops, and classes all through the lens of art and social change in Nicaragua and Cuba.

When she arrived in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, Megumi was immersed in language workshops where she practiced Spanish, learned about historic and current events, and visited landmarks in the city. Megumi shares, “it was fascinating to learn about the history of Nicaragua. It changed the way I was able to understand, see, and live in the community I was in.”

In Nicaragua, Megumi and her cohort visited local artists’ studios to observe their work and learned how art, poetry, and music is used to affect change in Nicaragua. She visited La Rizoma, a cultural safe house in Managua, that offers artists a safe space to create and exhibit art for a purpose. While she was there, La Rizoma featured an exhibit on catcalling culture, which unbeknownst to Megumi at the time is a serious and continuous problem in Nicaragua. From there, Megumi traveled to Cuba for four days where she attended seminars on U.S.-Cuban relations, youth culture, and the country’s history. She also visited historic sites and spent time talking with and learning from her host mom.

After Cuba, Megumi returned to Nicaragua for a rural homestay in La Lagartillo, a place Megumi admits was outside her normal city-living comfort zone, she says, “I learned to get comfortable with being uncomfortable!” Megumi was particularly impressed with the small town’s reputation for education—local women traveled from other communities to La Lagartillo just to attend high school. She also admired the community’s collective resiliency and resourcefulness—most women didn’t have structured jobs outside of the home but banded together to support themselves and their families by making and selling homemade goods.

The experience in Nicaragua and Cuba was one Megumi will continue to relive and reflect upon this year through her senior project. Her initial proposal involved developing a curriculum for the grade 10 CoLab course, Culture in Context, which would explore how art is used as a vehicle for social change, but as of now she is still in the process of deciding which way to bring her experience to Ellis.

“My experience this summer taught me to question everything. My eyes are open now in the best possible way. Being able to experience two new countries without the financial burden of travel was an unforgettable experience. I hope to study abroad in college and hopefully go back to Nicaragua one day. I would definitely recommend this opportunity and that Ellis students apply for the grant!”

The Marcie WATERMAN Love ’56 International Travel Grant for the Global Empowerment of Women and Girls was established at Ellis in 2015 and was inspired by Ms. Love's own experiences traveling in developing countries. These experiences forever changed her and fortified her work as work as an advocate for women's equality and independence.

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