Traveling to Costa Rica over winter break with a group of Ohio State students through Buck-i-Serv allowed me to grow as a person, step out of my comfort zone, and give back to the community. During the Costa Rica trip we participated in a wide range of high adventure activities including backpacking through the beauty of Costa Rica, ziplining, caving, white water rafting, rappelling a waterfall, surfing, and lots of swimming. For the service component of the trip we were able to help paint a local school and clean up and paint a greenhouse that was used by the students to learn to grow plants.
The homestays with local residents throughout the trip allowed me to dive head first into Costa Rican culture and hear the incredible stories of each of the families we stayed with which broadened my perspective of the world. At each homestay we had the opportunity to meet a new family and eat new homemade food. We also helped the families with many of their household duties including making sugar, making cheese, making bread, and even making chocolate.
As a college student I often feel as if I live in a little bubble, which is the Ohio State campus. However, the opportunity to spend part of winter break fully immersed in a completely new and unique culture transformed my perspective. More often than not I get caught up in the stresses of college life and forget to take time to appreciate all that I have been given. Furthermore, the ability to spend a week living simplistically without access to technology and a lack of materialism reminded me to focus on what is important in life. When backpacking through Costa Rica with only a few shirts there is no way people can focus on appearance and I feel this combined with everyone being fully present given the lack of technology laid the solid foundation which resulted in great friendships. The opportunity to give back to the families we stayed with and hear their stories had a deep impact on me. It reminded me that everyone in the world has a story that they desire to share so we should be more willing to listen to others.
The homestays throughout the trip really transformed my perspective by hearing what the families had to say. One comment that really hit home for me was a grandmother I was talking to who lived in a very secluded area with members of her family where they were extremely self-sufficient. She said if there was one thing I should remember it was that, “some people live to go to work, but others must work just to live.” This really hit home for me because I think so often I focus so much on the work I need to do, whether that is for my job or for classes. However, in reality I should be more appreciative that I am able to have these amazing opportunities because not everyone in the world is that fortunate, especially when it comes to higher education.
Furthermore, being disconnected from technology, social media, and school allowed me to develop significantly deeper relationships with those on the trip. I have noticed a significant change since getting back to the United States in that I spend significantly less time on my phone and now place an increased focus on being fully present when I am with others. I remember one day specifically when we were in Costa Rica that we had finished our activities for the day and we ended up sitting at the kitchen table for hours just talking and stumping others with endless riddles. I vividly remember this afternoon because having everyone being fully present without the distraction of technology allowed us to reach new depths with our relationships. Coming back to the United States I was bummed when these same people were quickly back on their phones even when around other people and thus I am making a conscious effort to not be on my phone.
While in Costa Rica we did service in various forms, whether that was painting the local school, cleaning out a greenhouse (pictured above) where they taught students to grow plants, or simply serving the families with whom we stayed. Personally, I think being able to serve the families was the most fulfilling piece of the trip. Even though I don’t think we did anything life changing for them, the smiles on their faces when we cleaned up all of the cooking dishes and dinner dishes will be something I always remember. These individuals work tirelessly just to live and be self sufficient out in the Costa Rican countryside so being able to do something even small was meaningful for me. I wish we could have served these families more and on a deeper level but I am glad we had the opportunity to do a lot of little things for these families.
As a college student, more often than it should be, college feels like a burden, however after this transformative experience I have a changed attitude towards school. So many people in the world are not given nearly the opportunities that I have been given and thus I should be more appreciative and grateful for these opportunities. My shift away from constantly needing to be connected with technology and social media has allowed me to already deepen relationships and be fully present with those around me. As a result of my Costa Rica trip, I have set a goal for myself to be less attached to technology and spend less time on social media. I am excited by the results already with the deepening of relationships and more significant interactions with others. Lastly, the fulfillment from having the opportunity to give back to others has reinforced my desire to pursue a service related profession, specifically in the field of healthcare. I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in such a transformative experience which allowed me to reinforce some of my views while also transforming and changing my perspective in other areas.