Buck-I-SERV: Costa Rica

This past Spring Break I traveled with sixteen OSU students and one faculty member to Costa Rica through a collaboration with Buck-I-SERV and the Outdoor Adventure Center. We engaged in various meaningful acts of service including painting the exterior of a local school and restoring a greenhouse to full function in order to provide fresh produce for the students’ lunches. While in Costa Rica, we also participated in a variety of high adventure outdoor activities including backpacking, white water rafting, caving, cliff jumping, rappelling a waterfall, swimming, and surfing.

What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Even months after the trip, I can honestly say that this experience in Costa Rica continues to impact my understanding of myself and my view of the world. First, this trip continually made me step outside of my comfort zone in the best ways possible. To explain, before this trip, I was fairly familiar and comfortable in all my life plans and experiences, having served in other areas of the United States on a variety of service trips through my church and through Buck-I-SERV.  However, in each previous trip I knew at least one person going on the trip with me.  Going to Costa Rica, I did not know a single person in my group and this would also be my first international trip, which was a huge deal for someone who has spent their entire life in Columbus, Ohio.  As you can see, this trip truly challenged me to go outside my comfort zone socially, physically and mentally.  Being totally among strangers forced me to reach out more in friendship with students living and working alongside me. Because of this trip, I want to continue to seek out service that exercises endurance and perseverance as this one did, both physically and mentally. I want to continue to continue to seek adventure and the unknown.  Costa Rica was exquisite and exotic, even if far away and a little scary at first. I feel that this trip has transformed me into a braver person.  In addition, this trip has taught me that service can happen anywhere and anytime.  Before this trip I had largely only engaged in preplanned, organized service events, but after this trip I now plan on stopping and opening my eyes to how I can make the world around me a bit nicer.

The Costa Rican people also completely altered my view on life. Over and over again, my fellow Buckeyes and I would remark about how much happier everyone in Costa Rica seems to be despite having so much less. This optimism is reflected in the popular phrase “pura vida” or “pure life” –  a phrase that basically means that life is good and everything is alright. What an amazing and inspiring mantra to live by anywhere!  Life IS good, despite all the worry and stress that attach themselves to our minds here in our frantic and fast-paced way of life.  If we all just shut off our cell phones and electronics, breathed in the fresh air, gazed at the incredible skies that are everywhere in the world, and let this phrase soak in, we would be far more at peace, and hopefully, pass this peace and joy to others as was done to me by the Costa Rican people.  This phrase and way of life has stuck with me since then, inspiring me to be more positive, focusing only on the good all around, and to try to live a simpler life.

What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed and how did those affect you?

During this trip I stepped outside of my comfort zone socially, physically, and mentally. Socially, I tend to take a while to open up to other people. However, with this being such a short trip, I pushed myself to engage and talk to every person in our group each day. Moreover, even though I felt uncomfortable, I forced myself to use the various Spanish words and phrases I learned in high school in conversation with Costa Ricans. I stumbled and used improper conjugation, but the people I spoke to seemed to appreciate the effort. These interactions made me more attentive to and appreciative of all my patients in the hospital who speak multiple languages, being far more cognizant of the importance of hand gestures and expressions to help convey meaning. In addition, I was nervous about undergoing the various high-intensity outdoor activities, particularly white water rafting, cliff jumping, and waterfall rappelling. We always had the option to say no to an activity, but I am proud to say that I participated in every one.

As I mentioned above, during the trip I realized the significance of service being able to be both planned and spontaneous. We happened to experience the latter in a beautiful way.  To describe, on one particular day we had decided to head to a market one mile down the beach.  When a trip leader noticed that there seemed to be a fair amount of trash along the way, we all quickly agreed that we should clean up the beach that we had spent the whole afternoon enjoying. It was completely spur-of-the-moment and I think that this is a main reason why it has stuck with me so long after. As one can see, service comes in many forms. It can happen anywhere and anytime, planned or unplanned. I know that I want to widen my eyes to my surroundings at all times and actively seek out opportunities to truly leave each place better than it was before.

Additionally, as I mentioned before, almost every Costa Rican person that I had encountered seemed perfectly content with life, unusually cordial, and more at peace than an average American I have come into contact with on the street. Their happiness with having so little has inspired me to live more simply by getting rid of all those clothes and items I do not need – and be happy with what I do have. Moreover, their optimism and joyous faces have taught me how truly noticeable and contagious a positive attitude and smile are. I plan to try to be a more positive person now. I want to bring others the joy that they have brought me.

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? 

For a long-time now I considered participating in some type of international service organization after college such as the Peace Corps or Nurses without Borders. I have always been passionate about service, which is one of the major reasons I chose an international service trip for my STEP Signature Project.  While I had gone on many week-long service trips throughout high school, it was with people I knew and to Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky. Before I went on this trip, I had been debating that a more long-term international service trip may be too much.  To explain, I was worried that being so far from home may be too far out of my comfort zone. After having experienced this trip though, I now am enormously eager and excited to apply to these organizations. I appeased and overcame some of my fears.  I know that these types of organizations would be far away, and a longer commitment than a week-long service trip; however, this longer spell would allow for more time to stretch my endurance, perseverance, work-ethic, and stamina farther than I have ever stretched them.

In addition, a lengthier stay in a foreign country would grant me enough time to explore a new culture and people, to truly delve deeply and more fully into it and them by surrounding myself in it.  If I choose not to stay abroad someday, I will bring back much valuable learning and wisdom, I am sure.  As a future nurse, I believe that nurses should strive to learn about the various cultures of our patient population so as to provide optimal care, as well as to connect in a way that only experience can bestow.  To describe, I feel an impetus to develop a foundation of cultural knowledge of others while I am young and have less obligations.  To explain, this is to examine closely a subculture that heavily populates the U.S., to learn its customs, traditions, sayings, inspirations, habits, and even language(s) in order to call upon these, in a patient’s hour of need, to come to their healing and comforting aid.  If I were to live in a foreign country and were injured or sick enough to require hospital care, I would hope that others had done the same.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *