Kendra Ansotigue

After visiting Spain, Kendra couldn't wait to travel the world, yet again. Watch this video about her trip to Costa Rica! And read her story below

Kendra Ansotigue

I did an ISA Service-Learning program in San Jose, Costa Rica with a Women’s Micro Enterprise Organization. I worked with an organization called Fundacion Rahab. This organization helps women, men, and children out of human trafficking and the sex trade. They help them by providing classes for them in beauty (Nail, make-up, and hair), baking, cooking, computer literacy, etc, as well as a life transformation course that lasts two years. This way, they can use these skills to provide for themselves and their family instead of using their bodies while focusing on changing from the inside out. For three months, I was able to teach an English class to a group of lovely ladies. Not only did I teach the class, I also helped with fundraising initiatives for an at-risk youth camp that happens every summer, I helped with translation, and I also helped in the day-care. 

The Pura Vida lifestyle was one of the main things that drew me to choosing Costa Rica as my next destination. Not only was I super intrigued by the lifestyle, knowing I would be in paradise at the same time was something that I couldn’t resist. I was in between Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic for my Service-Learning program, but my heart kept going back to the Microenterprise Development Program in San Jose. It was a pretty easy choice.

This study abroad experience was a growing one most definitely. The beginning was more challenging than I thought it would be but by the end of my internship, I could see the change that had occurred in me not only professionally but personally. I learned so much about myself and the Costa Rican culture. The immersion that took while working at my organization and with my Mama Tica (the wonderful woman I stayed with), improved my ability to speak Spanish immensely. I was able to travel all over the country, from the Pacific side to the Caribbean, from the rainforest to volcanos, from beaches to waterfalls. Costa Rica is exactly how you would imagine it, pure paradise. In addition to seeing all of Costa Rica, I also was able to take a trip to Panama. Not only is the scenery incredible in those countries, the people who live there are as well. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Once you spend time there, you will take a hold of the Pura Vida lifestyle and you won’t ever let it go. I cannot wait to return!

the adjustment period was definitely challenging. Since I had already studied abroad in Spain, I had an expectation of what the program was going to pan out to be. Well, I was completely wrong, and I am so happy that I was. It was a completely different experience because Costa Rica is completely different from Spain. The language barrier at my work between my boss/coworkers and I was very noticeable, and it was very difficult to get past being timid but I was able to overcome that after the first month.  Once I overcame my fear of speaking, things improved drastically. Things changed not just with my Spanish speaking ability but also my relationships with locals and with people at my host organization.

I appreciate the potential of growth that people have when allowing themselves to be vulnerable and purely experiencing a new culture/new lifestyle in the host country. Your experience abroad is what you make it. If you decide to put yourself out there, you will change. You will change because you will meet people from all over the world, you will experience a new culture, possibly a new language, and you will encounter situations that you normally wouldn’t with your day to day life in the States.

In this experience the most challenging thing for me was the language barrier. Having to overcome being timid and becoming more confident in my ability to speak Spanish was challenging at first, but I was able to get over those obstacles and work hard to improve my Spanish. Especially because improving my Spanish was one of my main goals for going to Costa Rica. However, even though I was extremely nervous to practice and speak Spanish, my coworkers, boss, and all the people in Costa Rica were so friendly and so helpful when you were trying to practice your Spanish.

My most memorable moment happened to be a weekend full of amazing moments. It was a month and a half into my program and we had a beach day for work for a team bonding day. I was super skeptical because I wasn’t close to anyone yet, and I was nervous to speak Spanish with them.  I decided to go to step out of my comfort zone and get to know my coworkers more; which happened to be the best decision I made throughout my program. During this beach day I was able to open up and get to know my coworkers on a more personal level, which allowed work to be that much more enjoyable. We went to two different beaches that were absolutely paradise; it was a perfect day. The next morning, I woke up early to catch the bus to Puerto Viejo, which was 4.5 hours away from San Jose. There I met a friend that is from Costa Rica, but lives in the United States. His family lives in a town called Hone Creek about 15 min from Puerto Viejo. And I was able to spend the rest of the weekend with him and his lovely family. It was fantastic to be welcomed into their family as if I was a part of it. The next day I was able to catch a ride back with my friends and enjoyed the trip home in a jeep through the jungle. This was definitely one of my favorite weekends during my program.

For those who are struggling to adjust in a different country, do not give up. You will make mistakes, but don’t let that discourage you. A quote that helped me immensely while I was working at Fundacion Rahab was: “If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something.” I think that speaks volumes. You are doing it and you are putting forth your best effort, so don’t give up. Also, I had mentioned this before but this experience will only be what you make it. If you put yourself out there, and work hard to practice the language, work hard to get to know your coworkers, work hard to come up with different projects to do, you will grow and change and make life long lasting friendships along the way.

This experience broadened my thinking about the world and the problems that are not strongly depicted by the media but are affecting a majority of the world. Learning about the human trafficking and prostitution problem in Costa Rica and the world in general is hard to stomach, but to know that there are people like the ones that work at Fundacion Rahab doing what they can to help stop and prevent it, is one step closer to breaking the cycle. This experience taught me that my voice/my actions count, and even a smile can change someone else’s day. No matter what language you speak, smiling is a universal language.