For two weeks in May, I had the opportunity to travel to Quepos, Costa Rica with GVI. GVI runs service-oriented programs throughout the world which have a focus on community development. In Quepos, I had the opportunity to work with children of the community who are disadvantaged. I assisted with an educational program five days a week for school-aged children that focuses on teaching life skills, emotional development, and empowerment along with conversational English.
I was very nervous to go on the trip before I left for a few reasons. I didn’t know anyone on the trip, I speak barely any Spanish, and I didn’t really know what I would be doing while in Costa Rica. However, once I arrived, I knew I was in safe hands. I met people in which I never would have met if I did not go on this trip. They were from all around the world, and I was able to converse with them about global issues and differences between our countries. I even taught them a little bit about basketball and Lebron James, to which my surprise, no one knew about him.
I became close with members of the community even with the very little Spanish that I did speak. I was able to still interact with them and learn about their lives, even when we could barely communicate. It was all about the subtleties that made such a big difference. I learned how to cook from Eneyda, a Nicaraguan immigrant who traveled with all 12 of her children for a better life in Costa Rica. Though she did not know English, I learned a lot from her by working in her kitchen and through translation done by others. Her life story was inspiring to me, and I will still think about her even though I have left.
Working on the childcare project required a lot of patience from my end, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Throughout my two weeks there, I saw change within the children we were working with. Although it was such a small amount of time to see change, I was moved by the way the children wanted to learn from us. They were accepting of the fact that we were much different from them, and they wanted to take part in all of the activities we had planned for them. In particular, one of our students, Saray, was always so eager to answer questions we would ask of her. She was always prepared for the next question, and I was inspired by her work ethic and ability to relate to us and her peers.
By working with these individuals, I saw a transformation within myself that I am very grateful to have experienced. I am now able to appreciate the smaller things in life, to only use what is necessary, and to be thankful for all opportunities that I have been given. To even have the opportunity of receiving a college education is something that I am incredibly thankful for, and I am now inspired to use my college education for the good of larger groups. I found that I can use it to educate others. I also found that I was able to use what I had learned in my college classes and relate it to things I was seeing in Quepos. I also learned how easy it is to relate to someone who may not seem the same as you, regardless of race, first language, or geographic region. We can all relate to something, and it is important to not keep biases with you as you interact with new people.
I am empowered to continue on with various service and volunteer opportunities throughout my life. With the career goal of being a dentist, I hope to work in areas such as Quepos to serve underserved areas which may need help with dental issues. I hope to be able to work in areas such as these and around the world to make a difference in people’s lives. It is important, however, to view these people at the same level as myself and not as though I am only there to help or fix the current situation.
This trip also gave me the urge to travel more. I am inspired to see more of our amazing world after seeing all the beautiful sights that Costa Rica has to offer. Though it may seem daunting before, being able to immerse yourself in a culture must different than what you are used to is a great source of being able to find yourself and experience a transformation. I am excited to see where my future career goals take me, and I hope they are able to take me back to Costa Rica.