A few weeks after graduation, the gifts started to slow down and the freshness of being a recent college grad started to wear off. My “Congrats Grad” balloon sat in a corner, nearly deflated and despite having a degree in hand, there’s still one thing I didn’t have: A job. Typical recent graduate struggle right?
As I continued my job hunt I decided, “Well, once I get a job I’ll just use my graduation money to buy work clothes.”
A mixture of cash and checks amounted to $890 of what I called my “grad stash.” Day after day I’d go to my stash and smile at “all” that money I had, imagining the cute work clothes I would buy. Then one day my whole perspective flipped when I stumbled across a single tweet:
Since I started learning Spanish in 8th grade, I’ve been obsessed with speaking it and trying to become fluent. So when I saw that tweet, I knew I had to look into it more. Now you might wonder: “Why didn’t you just study abroad in college?” Trust me, I so badly wanted to, but it was too damn expensive and there’s no way I was taking out another loan for it.
After I saw the tweet, I contacted the girl who wrote it and she had nothing but great things to say about her experience. I started doing my own research and found that the United Nations ranks Nicaragua as the second safest country in Latin America.
“Oh bet,” I thought to myself. That was literally all I needed to know and I was sold. I decided to do a home stay for a week which included classes, three meals a day, and activities for only $390 US dollars.
All I had to do was buy my plane ticket and I would be in a different country for the first time ever– and I was doing it solo. Yup, a little brown girl from the Peach State was headed out the country all on her own, at just 22 years old.
Why? Freshly graduated with a generous amount of grad money, no job, no kids, the question is “why not?” Screw the norm. Forget the status quo. I wanted to immerse myself in a different culture, improve my Spanish, see the world and feel both adventurous and brave. So that’s exactly what I did.
Just a week after I stumbled upon that tweet, I secured my home stay and booked my flight to Nicaragua. I was going to stay with a family that I’d only communicated with through Facebook and had never met before. Whenever I told people this, I got a mixed reaction “Wait you’re going to Nicaragua all by yourself?” “Why are you going there?” “That’s so awesome, I’m happy for you!” “Aren’t you scared a little?”
Of course, I was a little nervous, but discomfort is all a part of trying something new. Deep down, I knew I would be just fine. And if I wasn’t… what are you gonna do? Live without risk?
This is the Tellez family. The kind, loving and sweet family that opened their home in Leon for me to stay. Every morning in the kitchen I’d find freshly cut fruit and bread waiting for me. Then I’d take a fifteen minute walk and was at school, The Dariana Spanish School, where I took classes from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. during the week.
My favorite part about my walk was getting to pass Our Lady of Grace Cathedral each time. León is known for its beautiful churches, and I got the chance to see them all, but the gorgeous, white Our Lady of Grace Cathedral was by far my favorite one.
After class, I’d head back to the house for lunch and relax until 3 p.m. rolled around and it was time for our daily activity. I usually stopped and got a smoothie on the way, which I never felt guilty about because it was literally like $1.50 and delicious, so I balled out ??.
Our daily activities were educational and taught us about Nicaragua’s history, but each place was also an adventure to get to and a sight to see.
When our daily activity was over each day, I spent the rest of my time in the central park hanging out with locals. I was easily drawn to the folks hand-making jewelry and those selling ice cream pops for just 25 cents. I went from only being able to communicate for a few minutes at a time, to holding an hour long conversation on my second to last day with my pal Eddy. I felt so accomplished.
In just a week, my Spanish was on a conversational level and I was really doing the damn thing, making it all on my own exploring a different country.
As my first trip out the country was coming to an end, there was still one last thing that I had to do before I left– hike an active volcano. Cerro Negro is her name and boy was she hard and extremely terrifying to climb up. But there was a reward– I got to volcano board.
Yes, it was just as epic as it looks.
There it was: Less than a grand. I left the U.S., came to Nicaragua, learned Spanish, drank smoothies, and rode down an active volcano. I learned a lot about myself — being alone and traveling — and made legit friends. Work clothes could wait. So could the job. I had life to experience and I wouldn’t have it any other way.