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Anna Reflects on Costa Rica: Language & Leadership

Before my Global Works trip, I hadn’t really understood why so many others loved to travel. I think this was because my experiences travelling had been seeing other places and people only on a surface level instead of going deeper into the lives of locals there and striving for an authentic experience. After my Global Works trip, I can confidently say that not only do I understand why other people love to travel, I love to travel as well. Global Works provided me with an authentic experience of Costa Rica that was challenging, unique and fun. The immersion aspect of the trip forced me to use the little Spanish I knew, and provided me an opportunity to work hard to expand my vocabulary and practice speaking to locals. Although I was a tourist on this trip, I did not feel like one. The experience I had through Global Works was unique and authentic as I worked alongside citizens of Costa Rica clearing trails at Poco Sol Biological Station, or pouring foundation for a cabin in Cedral. My Spanish improved immensely and my understanding of Costa Rica’s government, people and culture flourished throughout the trip. I never thought I would learn so much while making meaningful connections and having the time of my life.

Other than a love for travel, this experience gave me more confidence in myself and my leadership skills. I learned that leading by example can be more powerful than leading by voice. Even though I was more on the quiet side compared to some of my outgoing and extroverted group members, my work ethic and passion for service actually set an example that others respected. Realizing this has been one of the most powerful takeaways from this trip, and translates into everyday life for me. I understand now that focusing on hard work and how my actions can have a positive effect can impact the actions of others. Without Global Works, I never would have been able to realize the importance and effects different leadership styles can have, and grow as a leader from that.

This experience was just as challenging and rewarding as it was fun, and I have my group leaders and group members to thank for this. The leaders of the trip were absolutely amazing, and I always felt safe within my group. One of the most special parts of a Global Works trip is the people. My group became so close with each other so quickly, and only became closer as the trip went on. The home stays provided me with a sense of community I have never felt before. I have made so many meaningful connections because of the Global Works trip; it is impossible to describe the impacts these connections have had on my life. Aside from the service work, the adventures we went on as a group were thrill inducing, breathtaking and of course, fun. White water rafting was a great way for our group to get to know each other and bond while navigating the rapids on one of Costa Rica’s many gorgeous rivers. The wildlife we saw during our hikes to waterfalls, in the cloud forest, or around mountainous Cedral was stunning. For the first time in my life, I saw a sloth, a howler monkey, a coati, and a grasshopper that must’ve been at least a foot long! Surfing at Playa Uvita was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, but more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. Zip lining was especially cool because we got to see a few sloths up close by looking through some type of telescope.

I have gained so much through this Global Works trip from Spanish and leadership skills to friends that feel more like family. The only thing I wish I had done differently is to slow down and really take it all in. I don’t think I recognized then the full beauty of Costa Rica and the impact our group and the service work we did had on others, as well as the ways this trip has impacted me. The only advice I would give is that this is a once in a lifetime experience. Be sure to make this experience your own and make it special and memorable for you because opportunities like this are rare and important to capitalize on while you can.