Name: Maranda Gammage
Type of Project: Teaching English to Children in San Jose, Costa Rica
I feel so thankful to have been able to use my involvement with STEP at Ohio State to plan a trip to rural San Jose, Costa Rica. While in San Jose, I spent two weeks exploring the language and culture of this Central American country, while also teaching English to children in an after school program.
One of the most valuable takeaways of this experience was my ability to put myself in the shoes of my students. While I was teaching English to these children, I felt many of the emotions that students who are learning another language often feel: fear, excitement and intimidation. I was surrounded by strangers, eating new food, and speaking only Spanish with those around me. This was very impactful for me as it allowed me to gain a small glimpse into what it feels like to be in a new and uncomfortable environment. From this experience, I was able to gain a glimpse into the different ways that others live and how despite these differences, we all can be united by a desire to learn. Additionally, I realized the value of keeping an open mind and heart no matter the circumstance.
I arrived at the airport in San Jose with absolutely no expectations of what the next two weeks would bring. From the moment I stepped into the airport, I was shocked that nearly no one was speaking English. I was uncomfortable; my phone didn’t work in the new country and I only recognized some of the words being said around me. After panicking a few minutes, I took a moment and took a deep breath. At that moment, I knew that I needed to begin opening my mind to the new experiences to come. I followed the directions I had received before my flight, and looked for the woman who would pick me up and take me to my host family. This woman spoke no English, so I was immediately forced to rack my brain for all the Spanish that I had learned in high school. Although my Spanish was awkward and broken, the kind woman and I laughed and chatted the entire 30 minute ride to my host family. Beginning in that moment and continuing for the rest of the trip, I was constantly shown love, acceptance and interest from the children and families I worked with. From this first experience, I realized the value of being kind even when (and perhaps especially when) there is a lack of understanding.
I feel so blessed to have had this experience to travel to Costa Rica to work with these students and to open my eyes, mind and heart to the world around me. Following my service trip, I hope to become more involved in helping students whose first language is not English here in the Columbus community. Eventually, it’s my hope to take more trips abroad to teach English to underprivileged students. While these students may have learned some English during my short visit to help them, I know that I learned far more about myself, my goals, and what it takes to make a difference in the life of another.