Name: Kaelyn Harwick
Type of Project: Service-Learning
- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two
or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project
My STEP Signature Project was a Buck-I-Serv trip to Costa Rica during spring break of 2019. We traveled to a remote village, Piedras Blancas, stayed with families in their home and assisted them for 4 days on building a bridge for their community. This bridge, once finished, would be able to allow horses and ATV’s to cross a river. We completed a total of 30 hours of service.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your
view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP
Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or
transformation that took place.
I learned how much I value peace, quiet, and alone time. I did not have access to my cell phone for most of the trip, which allowed me to get to know myself a little better. We had some physical challenges on the trip, including a 5-hour hike in 90-degree weather up many long hills. I learned how to mentally get myself through those few hours where I genuinely felt like I could pass out from the exhaustion. I learned that I’m more resilient/ braver than I thought because of this trip.
I also learned that the community we stayed with in Piedras Blancas was very self-sufficient. Living in the United States, we tend to think many other countries need “help” from us or assistance to get what they need. The people in this village have absolutely everything they need; they just live much simpler than we do. They are all so kind and happy, even after a hard day’s work. No one complains, and everyone puts their head down and works. They also don’t put pressure on themselves, like Americans tend to do. If anyone was complaining, it was me and my fellow group members. I would like to take this mindset and apply it to my everyday life.
- 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? Write three or four paragraphs describing
the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project
that led to this change/transformation.
Like I said above, everyone is so kind, welcoming, generous, and no one complains. They accept life as is and move forward. They solve problems that arise rather than dwelling on their existence. They don’t waste anything- I saw the father of my house reuse plastic bottles, bags, things that we would throw away after one use. The sustainability they have in this community is very admirable, and it’s influenced me to make a few changes in my life with regards to recycling, reusing, and not being wasteful.
Our trip guide, Carlos, was with us from beginning to end of this trip. He was so helpful, considerate, and comforting as we bombarded him with questions. Our first full day in Costa Rica, we had to hike 5 hours to Piedras Blancas, the village where we would work on our service project. Carlos warned our group the hike would be difficult, involving a very steep, long hill. 2 hours in, we got to this hill. It took me 40 minutes to get up this hill, and I genuinely thought I might pass out. It was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, I had drank all my water, and my heart was pounding out of my chest. Carlos reminded us no to put pressure on ourselves, and this completely changed my attitude. I realized I had been competing with the group members in front of me in my mind, putting pressure on myself to go faster than I was able. He reminded me that we are all different people, with different strengths and abilities. This gave me more comfort as I began to pace myself more to finish the hill.
Because of that experience, I realized how much pressure I put on myself to do well, whether it be physically or mentally. I want to think more like Carlos, by being secure and comfortable in my own abilities by not comparing myself to others.
This trip and the members I was with encouraged me to try things I never thought I would do before. For example, I held a scorpion (the stinger was removed). I repelled down a waterfall, and I hiked that dreaded hill. I realized I was capable of way more physically than I thought.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your
life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or
development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or
professional goals and future plans.
Learning when you’re pushing yourself past your physical limits and when you’re simply scared is such an important distinction to learn in life. This experience really helped me see when I was being afraid and when I needed to slow down, like on that hill. Living with the families in the village also made me realize how many unnecessary luxuries I have in my life that I don’t need at all. These people have everything they need, and they only rely on themselves. Even though I cannot adjust my entire life to live as they do, there are little things I intend on changing. For example, taking my time. No one is in a rush there, things happen when they happen. This goes back to putting too much pressure on myself- by learning how to take my time, I hope to decrease my general anxiety.
As a future Physician Assistant, I will be working with people from several different cultures. It will be my responsibility to provide the best care possible, as well as the best communication. Understanding others is something I feel I’m already good at since I’m a very empathetic person. Being mindful of other cultures is something we can all continue to learn, and this experience has helped me with just that. Being open-minded is important in life, your career, and when traveling. Having your patience tested while needing to work with others is also a challenge, one that I had to go through a few times on this trip. All of these trials, experiences have shaped me into a more confident, open-minded person, and I thank STEP from the bottom of my heart for helping me go on this amazing service project.