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Language and Culture in Nicaragua

Language and Culture in Nicaragua
This 6-week program gives students the opportunity to study the rich culture and language of the indigenous Miskitu people in Nicaragua.
Language of Instruction: 
Academic Disciplines: 
Latin American Studies
Program Type: 
  • Learn Miskitu, an indigenous language, while living in Nicaragua 
  • Have the opportunity to live with host families 
  • Earn 6 hours of academic credit
  • FLAS-eligible program 
Program Summary: 

This FLAS-eligible, University of Kansas summer study abroad program offers undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to learn Miskitu, an indigenous language, spoken by nearly 200,000 indigenous Miskitu people on the Honduran and Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast, and learn about the indigenous and Afro-descendant cultures. Students will further learn about the language and culture by participating in cultural activities and excursions to other cities. Nicaragua has a lot to offer, but because it is a developing country, students should be prepared to face unexpected challenges that come with developing countries, such as periodic lack of hot water or electricity.



Students will have the opportunity to experience different cultures and aspects of Nicaragua. The program will begin on the Central Pacific side of Nicaragua in the colonial city of Granada where classes will be held at the Casa Xalteva Education and Cultural Center. After a week in Granada, the group will travel to the heart of indigenous communities to the port city of Puerto Cabezas, known as Bilwi in Miskitu. Puerto Cabezas has a unique blend of mestizos, indigenous, and Afro-Caribbean culture. Students will have affiliations with the inter-cultural university URACCAN, the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, Casa Museo, a museum and culture house, and CIDCA, the Center of Investigations on the Atlantic Coast. The group will also spend a few days in the capital city of Managua. 

Academic Information: 

Six hours of undergraduate or graduate credit are granted by the University of Kansas upon successful completion of the program. The language courses meet Monday-Friday and the independent research course meets twice weekly. Courses are taught by KU staff and native Miskitu instructors.

KU Latin American Studies majors: the courses will fulfill upper-division elective requirements.

KU Indigenous Studies in Latin America (ISLA) minors: the courses will count towards the minor.

The Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship is given by U.S. universities that have FLAS funding. 

Non-FLAS funded students will enroll in a 3 credit hour language course and the 3 credit hour independent study course.

LAA 302/602 Topics in Latin American Area Studies: Spoken Miskitu I or LING 575 The Structure of Miskitu (3 credits). Students will learn Miskito phonology and grammar and work with local Miskitu speakers to practice conversational skills. Additionally, students will build a corps of vocabulary words to understand the discursive domains of gender, race, ethnicity, and kinship in Miskitu society.

LAA 302/602 Topics in Latin American Area Studies: Independent Research on the Miskito Coast (3 credits). This course introduces students to the geography, history, and cultural anthropology of the Atlantic Coast, a region that remains culturally distinct from the Nicaraguan nation. Students are required to complete an independent ethnographic research project on a topic of their choice and give an oral presentation presenting their findings.

FLAS-funded students will enroll in two of the following 3 credit hour language courses, depending on previous Miskitu study.

LAA 302/602 Topics in Latin American Area Studies: Spoken Miskitu I

LAA 302/602 Topics in Latin American Area Studies: Spoken Miskitu II

LAA 302/602 Topics in Latin American Area Studies: Spoken Miskitu III

LING 575 The Structure of Miskitu


In Granada, students will live with at least one other student in host families; three meals a day are provided. In Puerto Cabezas, students will be in double or triple occupancy accommodations at Casa Museo, a family-run bed and breakfast; breakfasts and weekday lunches are provided. 

Life Abroad: 

In Granada, students will participate on several cultural activities including a city tour, visit Las Isletas (islands on Lake Nicaragua), Laguna de Apoyo(a crater lagoon), and Masaya Volcano. In Puerto Cabezas, students will journey into Indian communities along the Río Coco and other coastal Miskitu villages. The group will also participate in activities such as furniture making, artisanal baking, and dance lessons.


Open to students from accredited U.S. colleges or universities. Minimum 2.5 GPA. Exceptions considered after submission of a petition. A Spanish background is highly encouraged because students will live with a host family while in Granada.

Program Faculty: 

Laura H. Herlihy’s research has been with the bi-national (Honduras and Nicaragua) Miskitu peoples since the 1990s and she speaks their language fluently.

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