Service-minded students travel to Costa Rica
By Klara Plenk, Reporter
Over mid-winter break, a group of nine students and Spanish teacher Sarah Powell traveled to Costa Rica. The trip’s main focus was to immerse the group in the local culture and help a small community through various service projects.
The trip required hard work, but the students said they still enjoyed themselves, doing numerous activities and exploring the country while gaining valuable experiences along the way.
“[The trip] really inspired me to want to do something and to … make a change,” sophomore Bella Mediavilla said.
On Monday, Feb. 21, the group flew into San José and were led by a guide from Walking Tree, an agency that specializes in organizing group travel. During the first two nights of their trip, the group stayed in a rental house in Alajuela. A highlight for this portion of the trip included white water rafting.
“I really … enjoyed rafting,” sophomore Grace Christie said. “It was incredibly beautiful.”
The following day, the group traveled south to a small community called La Florida, where they stayed with host families.
During their homestays, the students were able to connect with the families and delve further into Costa Rican culture.
“I think that one of the most important things a student can experience is the opportunity to see their [own] culture and the way they live from an outside perspective,” Powell said. “Staying with the host families, [and] seeing how they live, what their daily life is like, can let you reflect and appreciate … what you have.”
Staying with the families also provided the opportunity to assist with a community-selected service project. The students worked at a school to restore donated chairs and desks, and also helped repair the concrete paths and driveway on campus.
“I gained the most from the host family and the service project,” Christie said. “That’s the most important to me, but it wasn’t always the most fun, [because] it was really hard work.”
According to Powell, four nights in a homestay doesn’t make a big difference in the students’ proficiency in Spanish, but it does give the students more confidence with the language.
“My Spanish was better than I thought it was going to be,” Mediavilla said. “I feel like it improved because I got more in-life experience and more chances to use it in actual situations rather than just in [a] classroom.”
After their homestay experiences, the group travelled to the coast. There, the crew spent a day surfing at the beach before heading back to San José.
The trip over, the group reflected upon how the tight communities and what impression the welcoming nature of Costa Ricans left.
“There’s a real sense of community in Costa Rica,” Powell said. “People were so kind and … nice and so genuinely caring for each other, that it was really noticeable.”
This was the fifth trip to a Spanish speaking country organized by Powell. She hopes to develop a relationship with a community, allowing for more trips and encouraging more students to take advantage of such an opportunity.
“People take what they have for granted a lot,” Mediavilla said. “People [in these countries] have so little and … [are] so generous. If there’s a trip next year, people should really consider doing it. It’s more than just a trip; it’s an experience you should have had in your life.”