Final Reflection on LACS 020

Important take-aways from LACS 020 before departing to Nicaragua

Taking this course has really encouraged me to think critically about service trips and their intense focus on development in “third-world” communities. At the beginning of the course, we were asked to reflect on the ideology of international service trips and whether it was ethical. Though at that time I felt I understood the importance and purpose of service trips, I was never able to account for the many different perspectives on the topic until taking this course. My idea of service trips as inherently good was shaken with articles like “The problem with little white girls (and white boys): Why I stopped being a voluntourist” and “All for a good cause? The blurred boundaries of volunteering and tourism”. It forced me to look back at my own service experiences with a more balanced world-view, and reflect on how my actions may have been in line with what many argue is not service at all, but a new form of tourism that focuses on “helping” disadvantaged communities for personal gain. I hope this more balanced opinion of service trips will help me do the work I do in Siuna with more care, understanding and purpose.

Furthermore, this course was driven by engaging discussions on topics that are rarely spoken about in other classes, or on campus. I liked that I was able to talk about poverty, development, indigeneity, prejudice, race, eurocentrism and colonialism all in the context of Latin America, which was my first opportunity to do this at Dartmouth. I feel very prepared to head to Nicaragua after completing this course, and I had a great time thinking about the social, economic, political and cultural uniqueness of Nicaragua.

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