Studying abroad: How one AU student helped himself and Nicaragua

Mon, 2010-04-26 07:15 -- univcomm
April 26, 2010

“Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere,” said Caleb Fietcher, “right behind Haiti.”

Fiechter, a senior at Anderson University, recently returned to Indiana after studying abroad six months in impoverished Nicaragua, located in Central America. Average temperatures of 95 degrees during the cooler, rainy season became normal for this Bluffton, Ind., native.

calebf Fiechter’s experience was an interesting combination of study abroad, mission work and cultural studies. The unique part about his opportunity is that he built his six-month program himself. [Photo on left: Fiechter, who was able to study abroad thanks to the Center for Public Service program and a Rotary International scholarship, found the Rotary International marker in Rivas, Nicaragua.]

Caleb is a member of AU’s Center for Public Service. CPS is an honors program designed to prepare students for jobs in the public service field. Students are encouraged to participate in programs abroad, in other regions of the United States and in Anderson, Ind.

“CPS requires us to have one faculty mentor and one off-campus advisor,” said Fiechter. He credits his faculty mentor and Spanish instructor, Jennifer Barr, for recommending he apply for a Rotary International Scholarship. “I had to put together a series of applications and essays explaining what I would do while I was in Nicaragua,” said Fiechter. He then presented his abroad program to the board and was rewarded the $16,000 needed for the experience.

Not only did Fiechter study Spanish four days a week at the León Language Institute, but he took classes on Nicaraguan history and the recent revolution. Fiechter is majoring in English, working on a complimentary major in Spanish and completing a minor in Peace Studies. That combination made the experience in Nicaragua a perfect fit. Fiechter said he found a great deal of interest in Nicaragua’s political past and took weekend trips to history landmarks throughout the country.

Fiechter also discovered a passion for agriculture in the mountainous Northwest corner of the country. He volunteered two days a week with an organization called Nuevas Esperanzas, implementing a drip water irrigation system on Volcán Telica. The volcano looming in the distance from León is home to small villages of people who are forced to walk five hours each day for a very small amount of water. “We trained women in the small communities how to utilize these drip kits so they could harvest rainwater and grow more crops,” said Fiechter.

The Rotary International Scholarship program is one of the largest and most prestigious grant awarding institutions in the world. They call their scholarship recipients “Ambassadors of Goodwill,” a fitting title for Fiechter and his ambitions for the experience.

“The interesting thing about Nicaragua is that everyone is just passing through,” said Fiechter. The country hosts new backpackers, students and missionaries every week. This gave Fiechter a unique and diverse experience meeting people from all over the world. [Photo on right: Fiechter enjoyed this view down Volcán Telica. Local residents would walk five hours each day to the nearest village for water.]

Fiechter will graduate in May 2010 and plans to stay in Anderson, Ind. and continue utilizing his Spanish skills. “I’m applying for a position with the Indiana Department of Education as a tutor to children of migrant workers,” said Fiechter. “But eventually, I’d like to make my way back down to Central America.”

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.