Souvenirs are not why one should travel. Rather, the experience and what one learns is what should be valued. I have gained intangible experiences throughout my stay in UGA Costa Rica.

My perspective on academics has changed. I value the education I have received and will receive in the future, because many individuals have not had the opportunity to finish high school, middle school, or even, like my farm manager, barely finish elementary school. If you have the ability to go to college here, you are extremely privileged, and that is your ticket to success. However, for my own studies, I am excited to get back to school to learn. But at the same time, I am ready to not have the structure of school and rather, start getting out in the community and making an impact. I am ready for more experiences and education that school can no longer give me.

This point is followed by my personal goals. I am ready to begin my journey on achieving goals outside of the classroom. I want to continue to travel, learn, and be aid wherever it may seem fit. My goal is to work in communities to create a greater access to nutritious food. By being in San Luis, Costa Rica, I have seen families with very little in eyes of the United States’ standards. Families living on $500 a month and trying to make decisions between good foods to eat or sending their children to school. This is a decision that I hope one day will not have to be contemplated.

There have been many highlights on my trip. The first was making friends with one of the interns named Michaela. When she told me I was her friend, I finally felt accepted here. There was a sense of relief to know I had a real friend. Another highlight was when I returned from a beach trip with a friend and we saw our mountain from a distance, I had a feeling that I was returning home. This was a pivotal moment when I realized that San Luis was my home and how much I loved all the people there. Other times were on the farm when Marlon, the farm manager, taught me that mistakes were okay to make and that all will be okay. Then, there are always the beloved soccer games with the maintenance crew which is always a highlight because they are so much fun. Another highlight was when the interns and I had the opportunity to climb a tree and sit 60 feet above the world and look over the other trees to the ocean. It was an amazing experience, and it was a time I conquered my fear of heights. And lastly, when we went on an employee beach trip, this was a highlight because it was a great bonding experience with everyone. There are far too many highlights to discuss all of them. Each day there is something new that happened or something new to learn.

My worldview has changed. I appreciate the luxuries I have in the United States like paved roads, a diversity in food options, easy access to transportation, even the diversity in people and backgrounds. But also, I value much that is here like the appreciation for the environment, the close-knit community, the generosity, the patience, and the attitude to enjoy the moments rather than always be on the go. I know this is a comparison of only two very distinct places that I have lived, UGA Costa Rica and Atlanta, Georgia. But to experiences such drastic and such small differences between only two places has given me the perspective that the world is much larger than I expected. There are values, perspectives, and traditions that vary throughout; but nonetheless, there is much to value in each. The diversity is why the world is fascinating that offers much to see, experience, and learn.

-Alaina Buschman