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When I first submitted my application to be a part of this study abroad in Costa Rica, I

knew that I was stepping out of my comfort zone. I wanted an experience that would be
completely different from my daily life here at the University of Washington. I wanted to be
shocked, amazed, and maybe even a little bit scared by the beautiful things that this world has to
offer. After returning from this trip, I can truly say that my goal was accomplished, and I now
have a new perspective of myself and the world.
For a majority of this trip, we were either covered in mud, drenched in rainwater, or
saturated in our own sweat. While many people may shudder at the thought of these conditions, I
enjoyed every moment of it. I truly felt disconnected from the global world, and was more aware
of the environmental conditions around me. I could see more life around me, everything seemed
greener, and I was more aware of the footprint that I have on the world. Even outside of the
jungle, I began to realize that this is how almost everybody in Costa Rica lives. Their impact is
always on their mind, dictating many of their decisions. In the United States, people think that by
simply recycling, they are doing their part to save the Earth. But in Costa Rica, there seems to be
a greater general understanding about surrounding wildlife and the effects of climate change. Just
by observing these interactions and conversations between local ticos, I feel like I have become
more aware about how I am treating the Earth, and what efforts I can make to limit my footprint.
Through many interactions with local farmers, business owners, and tour guides, I have
also learned more social skills than I ever thought that I would. In the United States, people
ignore strangers, and usually greet people with a rather cold handshake. However, in Costa Rica,
people always have a smile on their face. They go out of their way to connect with people,
greeting them like family members. This overall friendliness and kindness creates a positive
atmosphere that is completely different from the individualized society that we have generated
here in the United States. It encourages more teamwork, and centralizes on bettering the whole
community instead of just a few major businesses. This approach to life has inspired me to reach
out more. I want to connect with people, hopefully bettering their days, and starting the
construction of a more inclusive society. With more kindness in this world, our society can
hopefully improve and focus on the needs of everybody, not just a select few.
After observing these social patterns that exist within Costa Rica, I found it easier to
write my final project. For the project, we were all assigned a section of the country and were
asked what would we change in the area with $10 million. Originally, I thought that this would
be extremely difficult. After only being in the country for several weeks, how could we all
identify an issue and solve it in a five page paper? However, when it came to writing the paper, I
knew exactly what I had to do, and even struggled with choosing the one issue that I wanted to
focus on. Reflecting on this, I am proud of myself. I had observed my area of Costa Rica,
identified an issue, and created a new solution. This was a new skill that I had developed, and
looking towards the future, I know that it will be extremely beneficial. If I continue down a
Public Health career path, this is what I could be doing on a daily basis. By practicing this in a
foreign country, I have begun to develop the community awareness skills that I will need in the
future.
This experience has truly changed how I view the world and myself. As I continue in my
undergraduate education, I know that I will always carry the lessons that I learnt in Costa Rica.
The kindness, awareness, and the incredible work ethic of all the ticos has made me want to
focus on the little things in life. I want to make every decision count. Whether I am travelling
abroad again, or if I am simply buying something from the store, I want to think about the
implications of these actions. By visiting these local farms and observing their efforts to improve
the world, I know that there are people that are actively working to save our planet and society
itself. By adopting their lessons and general care for the world, I hope that I can make a
difference within our own community at the University of Washington and wherever I go in life.