Leah Miller - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I wanted to learn about a different culture. I am deeply interested in history, so the idea of cultures completely different from my own fascinated me. I love trying to learn new languages and immerse myself in other cultures. Studying abroad gave me that opportunity to see if I really wanted to do something with travel for my job. Needless to say, I am convinced.

Why did you choose Greenheart Travel?

It was the one that came to my school and advertised themselves. I had not heard of others, so I ended up just choosing it.

Sunset in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Beach in the province I went to, Guanacaste. <3

What was your favorite part about Costa Rica?

The rustic sense about it. I was surrounding by rolling countryside that I fell in love with. I loved that everything did not look high tech. Honestly, I just loved being in a culture very different from the one I was used to.

What made your experience abroad unique?

Hurricane Otto. I helped in a community kitchen after it to feed people who were now homeless, and also helped sort supplies that were to go to those families farther away. Any abroad experience is unique, but that defined mine.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

I did not really have any staff in my area, but the Greenheart staff would check in with me once in awhile to see how I was doing, and if I had a serious problem that required someone other than my host family to solve, I could message my contacts in Costa Rica.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish that I had thrown myself more at every opportunity and took each day as a new adventure. I was a lot more charismatic than normal, but I wish I had been MORE charismatic because I might have made more friends. It just goes to show you, you HAVE to make the most of EVERY day.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

I would wake up, shower, and put on my uniform for school. Then I would walk about ten minutes to reach my colegio and follow my friends around to my different classes (each day of the week had a different schedule). On Fridays, I would usually walk home for lunch, because I had two hours of free time. Otherwise, I would get off school at 3 p.m., and work on homework in my house or relax the rest of the day. We would eat dinner around 8 or 9 o'clock, because of my parents work. Sometimes my sister and I would cook food too.

Landscape view in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Scenery of Guanacaste <3

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I would sit out on the "porch" (at the front of the house) and read, write, do homework, or just sit out there and think. Especially towards the end of my trip, if I could not go out, it was better than being inside where I could not see what was happening around me.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

It was a small one story house. There was a back door that led to a small outside area where we hung up our clothes to dry after we washed them. The walls were very vibrant colors (blue, orange, yellow) that somehow worked for it and was very similar to most of the houses there. It wasn't very fancy, but it wasn't particularly run down either. For that reason, I loved it. I didn't want fancy rich, I wanted real.

I loved my accommodations for the fact that it was very rustic. I would live that way back in America if I could because it is an easier lifestyle. You don't have to panic if you spill something on the floor because it might ruin the valuable wood flooring or carpet. If something spilled, we would clean it up. End of story.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

You need to be prepared to change to the culture, not expect the culture to change around you.

You have to take the initiative to accept how the culture is. For me, Costa Rica is very relaxed. It was hard for me to not know when exactly something would happen, because it would almost always be later than expected, so I adjusted. I forced myself to open my eyes and change. What I found, however, is the maturity that comes from changing yourself. Though you don’t necessarily change your entire being, you grow the morals that were waiting to be born. I know this, because most of the people who actually get as far in the process as to actually go abroad are the people who are ready to be awakened.

Street in Guayabo, Costa Rica
My Town, Guayabo

How has your time in Costa Rica impacted your life?

I have a new view on how my own country functions and reacts to issues and situations; I look at it with a different perspective. I realize how blind the majority of people are, in my opinion, and how culturally centered many people are. I am more confident, mature, and charismatic. I have a clear grasp on what I want my future to be like, because I know there is nothing I love more than exploring and experiencing what is unknown to me.

Would you recommend Greenheart Travel to others? Why?

Yes, because they are very one-on-one with you throughout your application process. Even when you get back, they check up on you once in awhile to see how you are doing, especially when you are dealing with things right after you come back.