Six Communication Studies students, along with students from Emergency Administration and Planning Program and the Department of Public Administration, recently journeyed to Nicaragua for seven days to study disaster and crisis communication. The Communication Studies class included one graduate student, Rhett Richardson, and five undergraduate students: Macy Needum, Maria Aguilar, Ryan Hooks, Kelsey Rodriguez, and Melisa Brown. The course was led by Dr. Brian Richardson (Communication Studies) and Dr. Laura Siebeneck (EADP), who partnered with Explore 505, a study abroad provider in Nicaragua founded by UNT alum Anthony Spencer (M.A., Journalism, 2003). The week was packed with guest lectures from emergency management professionals and officials, professors at Universidad Americana in Managua, and cultural fieldtrips and excursions.
Highlights of the class included the following:
- looking into an active lava pit at the Masaya Volcano.
- a visit to the U.S. embassy in Managua for a discussion of the embassy's emergency administration protocols
- being featured on a Managua television news program during our field trip to Benemerito Cuerpo de Bomberos de Managua, the oldest fire station in Managua (est. 1936)
- visiting Oasis de Esperanza school in Managua and playing games with the children
- boat tour of Isletas de Granada, a group of 365 small islands formed by a Mombacho volcanic eruption.
- hiking Mombacho Volcano and experiencing the volcanic steam vents and breathtaking views.
Students and faculty alike described this trip as an awesome experience. "Study abroad classes provide great opportunities to get out of the classroom and learn directly about culture, communication, and crisis," said Dr. Richardson. "We had a great group of students, who bonded through this learning experience."
Student Melissa Brown: The perspective I gained in studying a third versus first world country in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery is one that I will draw for years to come. Seeing the firefighters at Benemerito Cuerpo de Bomberos de Managua and gaining an understanding of how they keep people safe with a minimal operating budget was incredible. Until I saw it firsthand, I could not have Imagined operating with donated and outdated equipment, unreliable electricity, an antiquated phone system, and all during a critical drought....where the only water available is what can be carried in a truck...they do it every day.
Kelsey Rodriquez: Traveling abroad is one of the best decisions I made in my college career. I met the most amazing people, ate great food, experienced once in a lifetime opportunities and learned about a new culture and some things about myself.
Ryan Hooks, on his advice for students considering a study abroad course: "Do it. I was extremely skeptical about taking a college course, in a different country, with people I had never met; seemed like too many things could go wrong. On the contrary, it was hands down the most rewarding experience I've ever gotten to be a part of. I grew as a student and as a person."
Rhett Richardson: Our trip to Nicaragua was one of the most memorable experiences I've had the opportunity to be a part of. The sight of volcanic craters, pre-Columbian ruins, beaches, lagoons, and historic cities were beautiful. And learning about the people and how they adapt to the natural hazards of their environment was very informative.