Boaco, Nicaragua

Exchange Program

Nicaragua often referred to as ‘the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes’, is home to over 6 million people and is located in the heart of Central America and is a country bursting with tradition, history and culture. As home to the largest freshwater lake in the region Lake Cocibolca, an array of stunning beaches, dense jungle, rolling mountains and a high level of bio-diversity, it’s no surprise that Nicaragua is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the Americas. GSE students travelling to Nicaragua will travel off the beaten path and will spend time working and learning side-by- side with local students in our partner communities. Students will get to experience first-hand the abundant flora and fauna of the region on a daily basis and will also get to experience urban life as they spend time in the colonial cities of Granada and Masaya.

The Nicaraguan people are extremely welcoming, proud, and resilient. With the official language of Spanish, GSE Students will have the opportunity to brush up on their linguistic skills while learning about this vibrant country from local Nicaraguan students and GSE staff. With 17% of Nicaragua’s GDP coming from Agriculture, students will get to work directly in the sector that sustains a significant base of the population. Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in Latin America, making it an ideal choice for both first time and experienced travellers.

Itinerary in Nicaragua

NOTE: Based on a 9-day trip (GSE trips in Nicaragua vary in length from 7 – 12 days). Itineraries may vary from the sample below due to different lengths in trips, new project partners and providers. Within the state of Boaco, located in Central Nicaragua, GSE currently works in the city of Teustepe and the surrounding rural communities of Las Macias, El Espino, El Balsamo, El Jazmin and in Malacatoya with local youth on both school and community garden projects. Our local program team works with young community members who are part of Eco-clubs to foster leadership development and environmental consciousness. Day 1 – Arrival and Orientation: Groups will arrive to Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua where they will be picked-up by GSE staff and will head to Masaya “the city of flowers”, located 1 hour from the airport. In the afternoon, groups will receive a comprehensive trip orientation and have dinner. Groups will spend the first night in Masaya. Day 2 – Agroecology course: Groups will have breakfast in Masaya before traveling approximately 45 minutes to Tipitapa for their first hands on experience: an introduction to agroecology course. This course will teach students both practical gardening skills on how to use tools safely and dig beds, and will also enable students to learn about the theory behind the agricultural techniques GSE and our partner communities utilize. Following this course groups will head out to the region of Boaco where they will dine and spend the night. Day 3 – Community workdays: This will be the groups’ first full day of work. High School groups will work in one of the communities of Teustepe or San Jose de los Remates, at school, community or family gardens. US students will travel to one of the communities where GSE Nicaragua operates to work alongside local students from GSE Nicaragua’s Eco-Clubs and community members to create, expand and maintain gardens and work on other community environmentalist projects. University groups will head out to one of the communities where GSE Nicaragua operates where they will meet their host families and get settled in, before starting work. At the end of the day High School groups will travel back to Teustepe/Boaco where they will dine, participate in activities and spend the night. After work University groups will head back to their host family homes to dine and will then participate inn group activities in the community. Days 4, 5 & 6 – Community workdays : These days will follow a similar format to day 3. Throughout the course of the trip, both High School and University students will participate in educational workshops, will become immersed in the rich culture Nicaragua has to offer, will have the chance to learn, practice and improve their Spanish skills, interact with GSE Nicaragua students. Trip participants will be challenged to step outside their comfort zone; will get to test their leadership skills, and will undergo significant personal development. Day 7 Vacation Portion: This will be the group’s first vacation day which will begin bright and early with hike in the Boaco region where students will be able to take in stunning scenery, see an array of beautiful flora and fauna and learn about the rich history of the region. In the afternoon students will spend a few hours at one of the hot spring pools in the region. Groups will then travel back onto the city of Masaya where they will dine and spend the night. Day 8 – Vacation Portion: Groups will travel to the Colonial City of Granada where they will go on a 2-3 hour boat tour of the Islets of Granada located in Lago Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua – the largest fresh water lake in Central America). During the tour, students will learn about: the history of the lake, the Volcanic eruption that led the creation of the Islets, what life is like for those of live on the Islets. Students will also be rewarded with sightings of various animal and plant species. After the boat tour, students will go on a highlights tour of Granada City and will have lunch in the city before heading back to Masaya. In the afternoon students will visit the Artisanal Market of Masaya where they will be able to see/purchase a variety of hand made crafts and souvenirs. Day 9 – Departure Day: On the final day of the trip, depending on flight times, group’s will either travel to the airport in Managua directly after breakfast or will spend the morning relaxing at the hotel in Masaya before heading onto the airport.

Packing List for Nicaragua

Packing List

Pack light! You can hand wash clothes throughout the trip. We recommend that you either purchase or borrow a backpacking backpack that is large enough to hold all of your travel items and can be carried on your back (~50 liters). Rolling suitcases are discouraged as they will be difficult to manage in rural areas. Additionally, bring a small backpack that you can take on day trips, fill with carry-on items on the plane, and keep close to you with your valuable items (camera, passport, ATM cards, etc.). Limit your luggage to two bags only. Make sure that both are small enough to be carried onto your flight.

Culturally appropriate attire

Please note that many of the communities where we work are extraordinarily rural. Clothing that might go unnoticed every day in your home community will stand out and may draw negative attention. We ask that you think about how you can dress conservatively– T-shirts not tank tops, dorky hiking shorts, not short athletic shorts. Inappropriate clothing will not be permitted in the work sites or in community interactions.

Please bring $10 cash for your visa, which you will receive upon arrival to Nicaragua.



  • 1 nice shirt or outfit for celebrations and formal events
  • Comfortable lightweight shirts, mixture of long and short sleeve (3-5)
  • Knee-length shorts (1-3)
  • Lightweight pants (1-3 for working in rural communities and mosquito protection)
  • Socks (2-5 pairs, for work days)
  • Underwear (4-6)
  • Hiking shoes (durable shoes for working and/or hikes)
  • Sandals
  • Sun hat
  • Sleep clothes (shorts, tank top, etc)
  • Swim suit
  • A light jacket or sweatshirt
  • Lightweight rain jacket

Other Items:

  • Passport
  • Money belt (for money, passports, vaccination cards, etc.)
  • Towel (quick dry preferred)
  • Any medication you need
  • “Emergen-C” or other vitamin supplement you can add to water, any other supplements you’d like to bring to keep your immune system strong
  • 2 durable water bottles
  • Travel size toiletries (toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, biodegradable soap, etc.)
  • Travel size sunscreen (50 SPF or higher)
  • Aloe Vera
  • Bug/mosquito repellant (35% DEET minimum)
  • Travel size liquid, biodegradable soap for washing clothes (Dr. Bronner’s is great)
  • Sunglasses
  • Work gloves/Gardening gloves
  • Headlamp (preferred) or Flashlight
  • Power bars (nice to have when traveling and working)
  • A bandana (useful during workdays)
  • Games for down time (Deck of cards, Frisbee, Bananagrams, hacky sack, etc.)
  • Pictures of loved ones to share
  • A good book
  • Journal (if you keep one you will love it, and be very glad you did)
  • Spending money (Max $100 in U.S. dollars for drinks, souvenirs, etc.)
  • Camera/Music player (bring at your own risk and remember that we will not be bringing these out with us at all times. Technology signals that you are a tourist, and gives the impression that you have lots of money)
  • A positive attitude!

About the Community in Nicaragua

Through youth leadership development, nutrition education, engagement in regenerative agriculture practices, and environmental projects GSE Nicaragua provides both experiential and curriculum-based education to groups of youth in the context of school and community gardens. Under the umbrella of GSE’s Garden and Leadership programs; youth participants meet weekly to engage in dynamic hands-on sessions led by local GSE staff and supported by trained schoolteachers, project partners, and community leaders.

On the ground, our programming takes an ecological approach to food security, water security, climate action, gender equity, and malnutrition and engages community involvement in planning, implementation, and evaluation. We are committed to stakeholder engagement in our programming to ensure program fit, fidelity, and respond to and incorporate local realities and context

Our aim is to contribute to sustainable human and community development by empowering young people and providing them with the skills to assume the role of change-agent, generating and promoting social and environmental change at the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and community levels and within the context of regional public policy.

GSE Stories

Ryan is an adventurous Scotsman with a passion for traveling, working, volunteering, and studying overseas. Having spent his summer between High School and University volunteering with the British based charity Raleigh International out in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, he fell in love with Latin America and was inspired to take off overseas at every possible opportunity. He graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 2015 with a M.A. in Hispanic Studies and International Relations. During his university career, Ryan spent his second year studying in Pennsylvania at Haverford College, and his third year volunteering with three NGOs in Ecuador and teaching English and Spanish in four schools. Ryan started his GSE journey back in February 2016, and worked initially as a Trip Leader in Nicaragua before moving into the role of Exchange Program Coordinator. This past summer he volunteered with Raleigh international as a Project Manager and Spanish Interpreter. Ryan’s experience with education informs his belief that young people are best placed to bring about positive change in the world. He is thrilled to be re-joining the GSE team, this time as the Exchange Program Manager in Nicaragua. Contact Ryan in English or Spanish at gro.y1519183678ssabm1519183678etned1519183678utsla1519183678bolg@1519183678nanah1519183678cubr1519183678

Ryan Buchanan

Nicaragua Exchange Program Manager

Kelly Carpenter is a Santa Barbara, California native. For as long as she can remember, Kelly’s had a passion for travel and languages. She completed her B.A. in Spanish at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. During her early life and continued through her undergraduate studies, Kelly had the opportunity to travel to several countries throughout Latin America; experiences which enhanced her growing interest in the field of Public Health. She graduated in December 2015 with a Master’s degree in Public Health in the Global Health discipline and a focus in Global Health & Latin American and Caribbean Studies from the University of South Florida. After completing an International Field Study through the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Kelly was determined to pursue her passion for working in Latin America. She took a position working for FSD in Nicaragua mentoring student interns in asset-based community development projects with local health centers and grassroots NGO’s. Kelly developed a deep love for Nicaragua, and the spirit and resourcefulness of the people who live there. She is deeply vested in working towards sustainable community development, and improved health and wellbeing together and from within the community. Kelly speaks English and Spanish. Contact her at gro.y1519183678ssabm1519183678etned1519183678utsla1519183678bolg@1519183678retne1519183678prack1519183678

Kelly Carpenter

Nicaragua Local Program Director