In celebration of our wonderful 2017 Alumni, this fall we are featuring student reflections on our blog.
The following reflection was written by Maria Contreras, a participant on our Costa Rica El Sendero Program. Maria is one of the kindest and most considerate people we have ever met. We are inspired by her intelligence, compassion, and brilliant writing. Below you will find an honest reflection on what it means to be a young woman traveling the globe! Read on to discover what Maria learned about herself and others this summer in Costa Rica.
Reflection By Maria Contreras:
The summer of 2017, I traveled 3,516.8 miles to a small village in Costa Rica called Dulce Nombre. Eight other teenagers from across the United States joined me at the San Jose airport. With open arms and hearts, we all embraced one another despite our different walks of life. Ethan, Nicky, Logan, Jasmine, Jocelyn, Shoshana, Morgan, Gabby and I quickly became a family. We all clicked instantly and we were inseparable. With our wonderful leaders, Charlie, Sarah, and Carolyn, our family was complete.
Through a month of collaborative work and service, we immersed ourselves completely in the Costa Rican culture and quickly made Dulce Nombre feel like home. The humility of the villagers and their hospitality granted us the opportunity to truly adapt. It was through those long nights in the tent where the girls and I formed a sisterhood. Those nights of hair braiding, comforting, and sharing stories will always be cherished.
We shared our hopes, dreams, and even fears through our life stories at evening meetings. For the first time, I felt like I belonged to something much greater and was filled with joy.
For the first time, I felt like I belonged to something much greater and was filled with joy.”
At the work site, we worked alongside kind souls named Fabian and Memo who were our construction directors. Both truly impacted each and every one of our lives. They were our cool “uncles” who taught us how to do everything from laying cement, painting doors, and even building a bed from scratch. Through those long and hot days, I gained some of the most important knowledge and skills about life. Memo and Fabian are so wise and shared some of the best advice I have ever received. Wherever I go, I’ll always carry them in my heart..
While being disconnected from my own world, I was able to reconnect with Mother Nature and the gifts she gives us which I often overlooked before. I was also able to connect on a deeper level with the people around me and value those relationships, but most importantly, this trip allowed me to do a lot of self-reflection, and through that extensive process, I gained a better understanding of the people in my life, my social responsibility to the world, and my identity.
Because I am a native Spanish speaker, I had the wonderful pleasure of translating instructions on Fabian’s behalf. It was through this experience that I felt connected to my identity and proud of my roots. Fabian made me realize that being bilingual is a gift. I often took it for granted before, however, that all changed as he told me I was a “bridge that connected two different worlds”.
This trip allowed me to do a lot of self-reflection, and through that extensive process, I gained a better understanding of the people in my life, my social responsibility to the world, and my identity.”
That summer, not only did I gain family, made friendships that will last a lifetime, stepped out of my comfort zone and experienced many “firsts”, but I also became a wholesome person. I became someone who is more aware of their responsibility to this world. I became a brave and fearless girl who was empowered by other strong women. I gained a deeper appreciation for the world, other cultures, and for my identity. For a long time, I struggled to find who I was, what my purpose is, and what makes me happy, but through The Road Less Traveled, I found that and much more. From the bottom of my heart, I sincerely thank everyone who made this possible.
Sarah, thank you for teaching me more about Mother Nature and her precious gifts. Thank you for making me more conscious about my role in this world and how I can be me more mindful of the planet. Thank you for making me realize that it’s okay not to be okay. Thank you for allowing me to share my deepest fears with you and for encouraging me to face them. Thank you for being such a wonderful and empowering role model to me. As a young woman in society, it’s easy for me to lose sight of what is important, but through you I learned about what it means to be a strong woman.
I became a brave and fearless girl who was empowered by other strong women.”
Charlie, thank you so much for being always having a warm smile on your face. Thank you for always giving me words of encouragement when I needed them the most. Thank you for making me feel welcomed. Thank you for checking up on me constantly. Thank you for all of the great knowledge and “quotes of the days” that inspired me to think. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to flourish. Thank you for teaching me about the importance of using our privilege and gifts for the greater good of society. Thank you for sharing your wise words and for making me feel like an important asset to the group. I value our friendship and am grateful to have had you as a leader.
Momma Carolyn, thank you for making sure we were awake every day at 6:30 AM for breakfast and work through your amazing banjo song. Thank you for making sure we were all healthy and safe at all times. Thank you for keeping us organized and on track. Thank you for teaching me how to cook delicious Pad Thai Thank you for all of the reminders for bug spray and sunscreen application. My skin thanks you because I have been lucky enough to not peel. Thank you for being a great role model to us all. Thank you for making all of us had a home away from home. Thank you for reassuring us that we always had a safe space and knew we could go to you for anything.
Wherever life takes me now, I am confident that I will carry the lessons and confidence that I gained in Dulce Nombre, along with the special faces, embedded in my heart and soul.
Maria Contreras, El Sendero 2017
If you are a 2017 Alumni and are interested in being featured on our blog, please contact email@example.com.