“In April, I started a study abroad in Nicaragua, together with my sister and another German student. We were supposed to stay for one semester, and follow classes for credits. That didn’t completely go according to the plan. I had decided to go to Léon, Nicaragua, mainly because I could get a scholarship easily and because it would be a good opportunity to study my Spanish again. I didn’t know a lot about Nicaragua beforehand. When I arrived, I instantly loved the country. The people were friendly, the streets were colourful and me and my sister found a great apartment in the center of Léon. But two weeks after we arrived, the president announced that he was going to increase taxes and decrease benefits. That was when the chaos began. Farmers started to protest, and soon students too. What I noticed first? People got concerned, customers in supermarkets I spoke to were worried. You could see a change in the faces of people in the street. Normally, Léon is very vibrant. There’s music everywhere, loud people, a real Latin-American vibe. Now, bars and restaurants became more quiet and tourists started to leave. It was not just protests anymore, it got out of hand. People started shooting each other, houses were burned – a civil war started. We weren’t sure what to do yet. In general, foreigners weren’t the target, Nicaraguans were fighting each other. Nobody really knew where it was leading to, at that point. Our university wanted us to leave, but we weren’t certain yet. It was still relatively safe, you just had to avoid protests and big groups. But soon our classes got canceled, since it was becoming too dangerous for students to travel further distances by train or bus.”

“At the end of May, we escaped the situation for two weeks and went to Guatemala. We left our stuff in Léon and were updated by friends that were still there. When we came back, we knew it was no good. We were in a shuttle bus from Honduras and they didn’t let us through at the border. It was too unsafe, they said. After a few calls, we could enter. But getting into Léon was the hardest part. A guy opened the back door of the bus, were only me and my sister were sitting. He pointed a gun at us. We knew he wasn’t looking for tourists, he was looking for the police, but it was still terrifying. The streets of Léon were completely empty. There was glass everywhere. People had started to destroy the streets in order to use the stones to put up barricades. They wanted to stop the police from entering, since the cops were working together with the government. That was when we knew it didn’t make any sense to stay. Going home wasn’t an option either. We had prepared ourselves for a longer trip and if we were to go back, we’d arrive in the middle of the semester. My sister and the other girl decided to do an internship in Costa Rica, so that they could still earn some credits. I had already done an internship before and needed some time to settle down, so I decided to volunteer in hostels in Panama and Costa Rica. I didn’t expect to go traveling, so I didn’t save that much money. Workaway was an outcome. The first weeks were very hard. I had become used to Léon, had my own room, bike and friends. My parents were very concerned, but were glad my sister and I were together. They also knew we would never do anything stupid. Not all my friends were aware of the situation, I had to tell them. I guess the conflict is not really on the news in Germany, you have to search for it. My period in Nicaragua was one of the first times I felt real fear. Normally, you see these protests on television, they happen far away. Now, I was right in the middle of a conflict. Another thing: when we visited Guatemala, the volcano Fuego had just erupted. It was raining ash everywhere, so many people died. We hiked up Pacaya that same week, but landed in a thunderstorm. I felt afraid for days. So many improbable things happening when I entered a country. I realized that things can actually happen to you. Why should I stay in Nicaragua knowing it’s so dangerous, I thought. Life is so precious, you can die so quickly. All these experiences taught me a lot. I learned to listen to my gut feeling and to worry less about problems back home. A side job, studies, guys – such unimportant things compared to what people here are going through.”