Travel has been a big part of my life since I was young, and volunteering is a passion of mine, so when my best friend showed me her GLA catalog, I knew I had to try it out.
Why did you choose Global Leadership Adventures (GLA)?
I liked GLA because it offered a trip to a place I'd never been and a unique volunteering opportunity. I chose the Costa Rica Beachside Service Adventure program because Costa Rica was a place I knew was an unlikely destination for a family vacation, but was still a beautiful place that I wanted to see and explore.
What was your favorite part about Costa Rica?
My favorite part about staying in Costa Rica was how kind everyone there was, as well as the gorgeous sunsets we got to enjoy from the beach.
What made your experience abroad with GLA unique?
My experience abroad was unique because when you travel with GLA, you get to experience a little bit cultural immersion. If I traveled to Costa Rica with my family, I would have stayed in a hotel and seen some sights. But with GLA, I got dance lessons from a local pro, made pottery with the local artisans, met and played with children from the school by our home base, played basketball with teenagers my age, not to mention help build a bridge to shorten the children's walk to school.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The staff were very kind, attentive, and helpful throughout the trip. When two of my roommates got sick, one staff member readily came into our room at 2 a.m. to help them and another staff member took the girls to a doctor the next day. The staff helped all of us step outside of our comfort zones, and talked to anyone that was feeling homesick.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish that I would have learned more Spanish prior to my trip, as I study French, because I was unable to successfully communicate with a few little girls from the school who wanted to ask me questions and talk to me. However, even without knowing the official language of a country, it was still possible to communicate with simple phrases and smiles.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
We woke up around 7 a.m. each day and came down for breakfast dressed for the day. Before we ate, the staff would go over what we would be doing that day, and then I would go eat cereal with my friends. Five out of 10 days of my program were service days, so on service days, after breakfast, I'd board the bus going to my service project destination.
My trip had three separate projects. We would work for a few hours and then return to our home base for lunch, and maybe an hour or two of free time. After that, we'd have a cultural activity, such as a dance lesson or a trip to the town or the beach. We would come back, maybe have a few more minutes of free time, and then reconvene for dinner.
After dinner we had chow circle, where we said shout outs and got our quote of the day. After that, we'd go to our separate groups each led by one staff member and discuss our topic for the day, which was usually related to cultural immersion or service. Then everyone decided if they wanted to stay out and talk with other members on the hammocks until curfew or go up to their rooms and shower before bed.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I would send my parents a text, take pictures with friends, go swimming in the pool, or just read a book on the hammock.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
We stayed in a large area that had two separate “houses,” each with two floors and several rooms. There were three or four people to a room, and each room had a shower (with surprisingly warm water) and a bathroom. The area also had a pool, a large grass area where we had tables for eating, and many palm trees for hammocks. My favorite part was the pool, and that it was a two minute walk from the beach.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
Know that you will be pushed outside of your comfort zone, and although being away from home can be hard, you will have no regrets in the end.
Now that you're home, how has your time in Costa Rica impacted your life?
My time abroad has helped me realize what I want to do with my life (teach), as well as given me a new perspective. Many of the people I met in Costa Rica did not have much, but they all seemed so much happier than people around me in the Silicon Valley. This made me realize that you have to focus on what really matters in life. After my trip, I became involved in volunteer groups at school and am always looking for my next adventure.
Would you recommend your GLA and your specific program to others? Why?
I would recommend this program to everyone because I am a fairly shy person, and I went into the trip knowing no one, but came out with 10 life-long friends. GLA made sure everyone was safe and encouraged everyone to try each activity. If you're considering traveling with GLA, the Costa Rica Beachside Service is a great trip to change how you look at the world.
Lindsay is a junior at Homestead High School in Sunnyvale, California and she works in childcare at Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church on the weekends. In addition to going to Costa Rica with Global Leadership Adventures, she has traveled to more than five countries with her family, and they are planning to see Greece this summer.