Jason Puracal on Friday made his first public appearance at the University of Washington, his alma mater.
"I feel a deep gratitude to the residents of Washington state, and to the citizens of America, in general," Puracal said. "You all stepped up when I needed you most...and you saved my life."
Puracal said he plans to continue his studies in sustainable urban development.
He was was wrongfully tried and convicted of drug charges in Nicaragua. After spending 22 months in prison there, he was released on appeal last week.
Puracal said he doesn't know if he'll ever return to Nicaragua.