I have yet to leave home for my Gap Year Trip, but the time for me to leave for my first location is rapidly approaching. I am now 100% traveling to Costa Rica to participate in something called the CIME program. I will be spending the next 10 weeks or so doing a variety of things, some of which I don’t even know yet! Let me explain.
The first 4 weeks of this experience will be spent in a language school in San José, Costa Rica. There, I’ll learn Spanish formally while also living with a host family who will help me learn it as well. I’ll be with a group of people my age and older who are also learning Spanish. During the day, the school takes several trips around the area to further expand our learning of the language and to simultaneously experience Costa Rica’s capital city. During weekends, we’ll take day trips away from the school to specific areas around the country. After these first 4 weeks, based on my personality, interests, and proficiency in Spanish, I’ll select a volunteer opportunity from the dozens available. You only get to properly choose once you’re down there, so I won’t even know what exactly I’m going to be doing until I’m already there.
In terms of what I hope to accomplish for myself during this year, it’s pretty straightforward. Goal #1 is to become as proficient as possible in Spanish while I’m down in Costa Rica (and potentially my future gap year locations as well, hint hint). This not only will make existing in Costa Rica a lot easier, but it will also feel really cool to speak to someone in a language that’s not English. I took two years of Spanish in High School, but the teaching was probably less than ideal, and I didn’t take it all that seriously at the time. So, while I’m not starting from scratch, and that’s a nice jumpstart, I’m starting from almost scratch. Spanish is also a useful language to have when living in Florida since so many people in the state speak Spanish as a first or second language. Two of my closest friends speak fluent Spanish, so it’ll be fun speaking to them and embarrassing myself anyway because I’ll surely speak broken Spanish at best, but hey it’s a start.
Goal #2 is to become more independent. I’m kinda taking baby steps with this one, as I have a consultant and my parents helping out with seeking and organizing programs for me to attend. This is gonna jump-start a lot when I get to the airport and then that’s it. The program is more structured to give guidance for things but it’s not like a chaperoned field trip. Once I get to where my parents can’t follow me at the airport, I’m on my own for things. While my host family will surely provide me with things, I still have to manage my own belongings and roll with any unforeseen challenges that living in another country might bring. Also, the fact that I literally will have to choose what direction the last 6 weeks of my first stop take with the big book of potential volunteer opportunities is certainly an exercise in independence.
Goal #3 is to experience new things. This one is kinda inevitable considering the nature of a gap year, but there are many things about this experience that will be new for me that may not be new for others. First of all, I’ve never left the country before. I’ve seen a large portion of the United States, but it’s always been by a long car trip (I’ve been as far west as Denver, Colorado/Albuquerque, New Mexico and as far north as Washington, D.C./Columbia, Missouri). As such, this will be my first time ever on an airplane and I’ll be completely alone. Other things like living with a host family and basically 90% of what my daily life will be in Costa Rica will all be new. Even with all that, I intend to pick something for the remaining 6 weeks that will be even more out of my comfort zone. I’ve worked at the humane society before in the States, so while working at one in Costa Rica would be fun, I’ll probably end up choosing something more wild and unique than that. Who can say, though? I’ll see when I get there!