Wonderful video of study-abroad cultural exchange on La Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua: A chat with the filmmaker, Heather Croix

carthage.jpgThe description of the video is simple—”Carthage College professors lead a group of students on a trip to Nicaragua to learn about physical geography and health care”— but its message is far-reaching and it captures aspects of travel and volunteering abroad — the anticipation, the fear, the lessons, the humility — that I’ve rarely seen presented so well.

The 9-minute film, “Explore Nicaragua,” was directed and edited by Heather Croix and produced and directed by Paul Chilsen. Heather is a recent college graduate, currently working as a swimming coach and substitute teacher in Wisconsin. Her trip to Nicaragua to document a Cathage College study-abroad program was her first time traveling outside the United States. Watching the video, you can tell it was as a profound experience for the filmmakers as for the subjects. I asked her about the experience:

JB: How did this project come about?

HC: Carthage College offers students the opportunity to travel abroad during J-Term (January). One of my Communications professors asked me and two other students to join him as a film crew to document the trip in Nicaragua. In turn, I self-designed an independent study course to receive credit for my work.

JB: Were you a participant on that trip or a filmographer?

HC: My primary responsibility was to serve as a member of the film crew, but I was also able to enjoy some of the activities the other students participated in, such as kayaking, hiking Maderas Volcano, etc.

JB: How did you handle the logistics of the production in Nicaragua?

HC: Having never done anything like this before, we carefully planned out how and what we would capture. Under the supervision of Paul Chilsen (Prof. of Communications), he provided us with useful guidance based on his production experience. It was definitely a great learning experience! Although he was a big help in teaching us throughout the trip about the structure of our production, some parts were unplanned.

JB: What was the biggest challenge of filming?

HC: Filming over the course of two weeks is exhausting, let alone in a foreign country where you don’t exactly know your way around. I would say the biggest challenge was wanting to capture more than what was possible. These students came back at the end of the day sharing incredible stories of what procedures they performed or the interactions they had with the natives. There were some stories or experiences we wish we could have had on film, but couldn’t possibly have a camera at each clinic.

JB: Why do you feel it is important to travel?

HC: This was my first time out of the country. Having the chance to travel somewhere completely different opened my eyes and exposed me to a culture entirely different than my own. It’s important to take advantage of traveling, because it teaches you something you can’t learn in a classroom.

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