Nicaragua 2013: A Student’s Perspective

By: Joseph Motto (Nicaragua Participant, ’13 & JD, ’14)

Joseph Motto “volcano surfing” at an active volcano known as Cerro Negro

Joseph Motto “volcano surfing” at an active volcano known as Cerro Negro

Cross Disciplinary Professional Development, Wake Forest Law School’s short-term study abroad program, provides adventurous students an opportunity to spend their winter break traveling in Nicaragua.  The course takes place in three of Nicaragua’s largest cities: Managua, Leon, and Granada.

The focus of the class is to provide legal assistance to Nicaraguan producers and small business owners who wish to export their products to the United States.  Our group provided such assistance at Managua’s “Center for Exports and Investments.”  At the Center, Professor Steven Virgil gave a presentation on the laws that govern food and beverage exports to the U.S., such as FDA and USDA regulations.  The producers and business owners in attendance also had the opportunity to meet with members of our group individually to voice their specific questions about exporting to the U.S.  For example, I had the chance to speak with the owner of Vinos San Jacinto, a passion fruit wine producer, who asked to be advised on U.S. labeling requirements and FDA regulations that would govern her product.  Having returned to the U.S., Professor Virgil is helping our group research the relevant law and prepare memos answering the owners’ specific concerns.  These memos will be returned to the owners so that they can place their products in the U.S. market.


Dr. Marvin Aguilar Garcia, Vice President of the Supreme Court, and Joseph Motto (Nicaragua, ’13 & JD, ’14)

While in Managua, our group also visited the Supreme Court of Nicaragua.  Dr. Marvin Aguilar Garcia, Vice President of the Supreme Court, spoke to us about the Nicaraguan judicial system and explained the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Nicaraguan systems.  Dr. Garcia fielded questions posed by our group, and provided a tour of his chambers and the Supreme Court building.  He also generously autographed copies of a Nicaraguan law manual for each student.

The class then traveled to Leon, Nicaragua’s cultural and intellectual hub.  Our time in Leon was spent exploring the city, visiting local museums, and enjoying the local beaches.  Myself and two other students used our time in Leon to go “volcano surfing” at an active volcano known as Cerro Negro.  The hike to the top of the volcano while carrying wooden snowboards was moderately difficult, but the struggle was worth it.  From the top, we had great views of the Nicaraguan landscape and could look down into the volcano’s crater, which had smoke still rising from its ashes.  When we were done taking in the awesome view we donned minor protective gear and, without much instruction, began sliding down the volcano.  While the hike to the summit took roughly an hour, the slide to the bottom took at most ten minutes.  It was definitely the highlight of my trip.

The final portion of the class took place in Granada.  Granada is known for its colonial architecture and vibrant markets.  The group’s time there was spent exploring the city and enjoying our last few days in Nicaragua before venturing back to Winston-Salem.

WFU Law offers a unique opportunity to take a short course in Nicaragua in January before the spring semester officially begins. More information about the short course offered in Nicaragua.