Once in a Lifetime Summer | Teen Ink

Once in a Lifetime Summer

August 11, 2008
By Jackie Katz PLATINUM, New York, New York
Jackie Katz PLATINUM, New York, New York
20 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Westcoast Connection 360 Student Travel
Trip: Costa Rica 28 Day Community Service and Language Immersion

This summer, instead of attending a prestigious theater program like I have been for many years, I wanted to do something to take me out of my comfort zone. I wanted to try things that I would never normally try, see places I wouldn’t normally see, learn about a new culture, and make new friends. I got to do to all of that and so much more on the Westcoast Connection 360 Student Travel’s trip number LCR1A to Costa Rica.

The tour had 17 members, all ready to work hard and play hard. We had two directors, both really fun people to get to know and very trustworthy, which is a must, especially in a foreign country. We traveled all throughout Costa Rica, and did amazing things.

For the community service component, we had three projects. Our first project was through the Humanitarian Foundation, and we worked with children in extremely impoverished neighborhoods. We played with them, did art, jewelry making, read books, did theater and more. We only could speak Spanish to them, so that was another plus for me so I could practice the language. Seeing the happiness we gave these children was probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. You can see pictures of poverty, but you don’t know it until you see it and feel it.

Our second project was to contribute by painting a community center and re-glazing desks and chairs for a local, public school. The center and the school have looked the same for over 50 years, and although we did not get to see the look on the peoples’ faces, I know we truly made a difference by brightening up the surroundings. We also inspired locals, for when they passed us, they joined in and painted. Our third project was to help a local coffee plantation, a major export for Costa Rica. We worked hard. It was the most physically demanding activity I’ve ever done, considered I live in New York City. We weeded, and transferred coffee plants up a huge mountain. Yet, it was exhilarating and I enjoyed getting down and dirty!

The language component also meant a lot to me. We took language at the Centro Panamericano de Idiomas or C.P.I at three different locations. At the start of the trip, we took a placement test so that the school could place us in a class of 3 or 4 with students at our level. The teachers were so nice, and we learned mostly through conversation and games, something I feel is lacking in language programs in U.S. high schools. I feel now I’m able to speak the language much better, and I learned about Costa Rican culture.

However, the most exciting part of the trip was all of the adventure activities 360 travel is famous for. We went ziplining, white-water rafting, tubing, waterfall rappelling, horseback riding, surfing and salsa dancing. Well, that last one was an adventure for me anyway. I am normally an indoors kind of person, but I owed it to myself to try new things, and I enjoyed and had a blast on most of them. They were all amazing, once in a lifetime experiences that are impossible to forget. In addition to adventure activities, we also had some pure leisure excursions, such as swimming in waterfalls (awesome!), taking mud baths (amazing!), and relaxing in naturally hot spring water (unbelievable!). These are all activities one can never do at home or a theater camp for that matter. I’m so happy I went out of my comfort zone to try Westcoast 360, and I recommend everyone out there who can to do the same.

The author's comments:
I did this summer program last summer, and I wanted to recommend it to everyone!

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This article has 1 comment.

Goldie said...
on Aug. 30 2008 at 1:21 pm
Thanks! I really wanted to do a program like this next summer, and you're inspiring me to go for it. I'm definitely going to check out Westcoast.