- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
My STEP Signature project was a service learning trip to Quepos, Costa Rica. The main purpose of this service learning was we helped with childcare and teaching English to the people that lived there. While I was there, I primarily taught English to young adults and I also helped with childcare when I had free time.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
From this trip, I learned a lot about the culture of Costa Rica and the work that it takes to do service work. I learned that service work is an easy task, and it takes a lot of time and effort. Before I went, I thought that the task of teaching English would be easy because I have learned and spoken English my whole life, and I just had to tell them the things that I learned. I came into the trip thinking that it would be simple, and I had a lot of confidence in my ability to teach others, but I quickly learned that teaching others is a tough skill. I learned that English is a very difficult language to speak, and there is of planning that goes along with it so that you can accurately teach the information. I assumed that it would be easy to communicate with the people there, even though I only spoke a few words in Spanish before I arrived. However, I learned that it is very difficult to try to teach someone else English if you are barely able to speak their own language. My view of the world changed drastically since arriving in Costa Rica and interacting with the people and learning about their culture. When I arrived, the program had already been going on for a few years, so they had already made some progression and built a good relationship with the people that live there. However, I believe that I helped contribute to the good relationship that they have built with us, and I hope that my time there made a difference in a positive way.
- What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?
Before attending the trip, I thought that teaching English would be easy because I have learned it and spoke it all of my life, but I learned that this was not the case. I learned that teaching any subject requires a lot of hard work behind the “teaching scene” and you must always come prepared for your lesson. Each day, we would wake up and meet up with the other teachers and talk about the goals for today’s lesson, and the plan for the lesson. You also must be very patient with the people you are working with, because it may take some people longer to learn or they might be stuck on a concept that some may find easier than others. It was also very difficult to communicate with the people when we do not speak the same language. I also learned that it is much easier for someone to learn a new language when they are younger because they can understand that the language that they speak is different from others around the world.
Another activity that led to my transformation was when I was working with the young children in childcare. I learned that it is much different to teach young kids than it is adults, and you must use different ways of learning that are more engaging for them. For example, one activity that we started every morning was would we sing a song with them singing the days of the week in English. The kids had already memorized all of the words, and they were happily singing alone. Also, we would give stars on the board next to each kid’s name whenever they did something positive, or if they were behaving correctly. At the end of each class, the kid with the most stars would win a snack prize. Even though this prize was usually only a piece of fruit, it gave motivation to the kids to behave better each class and to eat healthy. All of these activities and countless more affected me greatly by putting a smile on my face and giving me hope for these kids to do great things in the future.
One big thing that I learned on my trip was the impact that you can have on someone else in such a short time. For example, I was assigned to teach English to an older woman named Christalina, and our relationship grew tremendously from the first lesson to the last lesson. In the beginning, she was very shy and did not seem to want to learn, but by the end of my time she was dancing and begging to learn more. I did not expect to build relationships with the people that I worked with, but I find myself missing this trip and wanting to meet up again with Christalina and others that I met. I was only there for two weeks but the relationships that were built with the people in my program and also the people that I worked with are something that I will always remember.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
I have traveled to multiple other countries as a tourist, but this was my first time interacting with people and building relationships with them. I learned that they are very similar to us, but much different at the same time. Building relationships with them and teaching them about my culture gives me hope that eventually we will find world peace. I learned that we should never judge other people or treat others differently because of where they live or their background until we live in their shoes. I learned how to communicate with people who may think differently than myself, and how to work as a group. I learned to be patient and understanding of others even if we do not speak the same language or comprehend the same things. I learned how good it feels to give to others who are less fortunate and the impact that I can have on their lives. I learned that service work is something that I really enjoy doing, and I would love to go back or to another place for a longer period of time. I learned how blessed I am to live the way that I do, and I should take these opportunities to learn more to improve the world.