This summer, I participated in SPI’s Summer 1 program in Monteverde, Costa Rica. This is a two week-long language immersion and service trip. My friend and I went together, but I met so many new friends that I still keep in touch with today that going alone would have been no problem. My two weeks summed up in one sentence would be: The best two weeks of my life spent creating new friendships and experiencing new things, while giving back to the community through service, during a summer that I wouldn’t want to spend any other way.
Saying goodbye to all my friends and the town that I grew to love was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I can wholeheartedly say that this experience has opened my eyes and given me a new perspective, as well as a better understanding of the language and culture of Costa Rica — along with the world.
The picture above is of Neha and me before we boarded the plane to Dallas, Texas, where we met some of the people we would spend the next two weeks with.
This is a group picture of half of the group on our bus ride to our first day in Monteverde.
This is when we first met our Mama Tica! Part of the immersion was having a homestay and speaking with the homestay family. We ate most of our meals with our homestay family and I still keep in touch with my Mama Tica.
Before our academic classes, we learned how to make a Spanish tortilla and somewhat mastered the art of tortilla crafting.
This day we went on a Trapiche tour of the sugar cane and cocoa farm. Here is a picture of my friend, Kayli, and me eating some of the fresh and delicious sugar cane. We got to eat chocolate and sugar cane — what is better than that?
After a day of class at CPI (Centro Panamericano de Idiomas) we decided to have a photo-op in front of the beautiful view outside.
On our second volunteer day at Finca Life Monteverde, we planted trees to help the environment and learned about the importance of trees and nature.
We went on the Canopy tour this day, which means we got to go zip-lining. I had been zip-lining before, but it was nothing like this experience. Here we got to zip line through the cloud forest. It was a one-of-a-kind experience!
On Saturday, we went to Isla Tortuga for the day and took a boat ride to and from the beach. The boat ride was amazing because of the entertainer who got us all to dance.
On the beach we went banana boating and paddle boarding.
After our guided hike of the Santa Elena Reserve was rained out, (yes, the rain forest tour was rained out) we had a free afternoon. Many people went to the butterfly sanctuary, but some of us decided to explore Santa Elena. We ended up at a coffee shop where the rest of the group met us after their butterfly tour.
We had a free morning and we had breakfast at the coffee shop where our Mama Tica works. It was an amazing breakfast! After that, we returned to classes.
On our third day at Finca Life Monteverde, they organized a competition for us that involved things we had learned at the farm.
It was Riley’s 16th birthday, so after volunteering and classes we planned a surprise dinner for her. Here we are “worshipping” her!
We surprised Riley at dinner when we all jumped out yelling, “SORPRESA”!
In the morning, we went horseback riding and saw beautiful views of Monteverde.
At the end of classes, we took a Latin dance class where we learned to dance the salsa and merengue.
It was our last day at Finca Life Monteverde, and in this picture we showed how sad we were to leave. We planted trees for the last time and then met by the Guava tree to talk about the importance of our experience and of nature.
Before classes, our supervisors planned a scavenger hunt for us. We were to find things around Santa Elena or to talk/ask in Spanish about certain things with the locals. Our group came in 3rd and even though we didn’t win, everyone got a prize.
That prize was seeing a sloth, which we had been wanting to see the whole trip.
It was our last full day in Costa Rica. Our last group activity was the Hanging Bridges tour. You can see in the picture that our group was making use of the large leaves in the rainforest. We were able to see numerous animals including monkeys, hummingbirds and coatimundis.
We had a free afternoon, but because it was our last day some of us met up at the coffee shop and went to a concert after dinner to make the most of our time together.
This was the hardest and saddest day of all. We had to say goodbye and go our separate ways. We spent the bus ride singing songs, but all of us were hoping that the bus ride to the airport would last forever just so we wouldn’t have to leave. This was our last picture as a group.
About the Author: Katherine Peterson participated on SPI’s Costa Rica program in summer 2015.