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Travel essay contest winner

Each year, Farther Foundation scholarship recipients participate in life-changing programs across the country and around the world. When they return, they share their experiences with us, and we share them with you. Delia won third place in our essay contest this year. Here is what she experienced during a four-week adventure in Costa Rica.

Delia with some new friends in Costa Rica.

Delia with some new friends in Costa Rica.

“This summer, I had the opportunity to travel along with 36 others students from around the United States with the AFS Intercultural Program to Costa Rica for four weeks for a community service based trip. At first I was apprehensive to meet the people that were going on my trip. What if I couldn’t connect with people? What if I couldn’t find someone like me? By the end of the first week, I knew I had made friends that would last me a lifetime. I was in love with the friendships I had made. There where people from every corner of the United States. We even had a girl from Belgium. Everybody that I met was so open and eager to be friends with everybody, so it was easy to talk to everyone. My worries about connecting to people and finding people like me went out the window. We were able to connect through our differences. Every conversation was a learning experience. Each person in our program was completely different from the next. That is what made our trip the most interesting. Had we all been from the same area, the trip would have been completely different. The people I met and shared this experience with were hands down the best part of trip. Without them I would not have been able to learn as much, experience as much, laugh as much, or cry as much. Of course leaving the trip would have been easier and a lot less emotional, but I would not have changed a single thing.

 My worries about connecting to people and finding people like me went out the window. We were able to connect through our differences. Every conversation was a learning experience.”

During my first week, I stayed at a farm in the mountains, and occasionally the clouds, of Costa Rica.  Costa Rican farms, or “fincas”, are completely different. Being in the mountains, the elevation is constantly changing and with each step something new is  discovered. Finca La Flor was completely engulfed in the forest and it puzzled me to think that anyone could have cleared out the space to build such a lovely place. As you enter, there is a small building which became our mecca for meetings and occasionally functioning wifi. As you walk further, you run into cabins, small fields with emerging crops, and stables that housed horses, cows, goats and chickens. From certain places on the finca, you can see down the entire mountain and down into the valley. It is completely green and picturesque. I have never seen anything more tranquil and awe inspiring. There is something about being completely separated from the busy world we live in and knowing that there is nothing but forest for miles that puts one at complete ease. Because Finca La Flor’s elevation is so high, clouds would roll in everyday and cover everything. Everything becomes foggy and misty and it is impossible to see past the trees that surround the finca. Eventually the clouds would roll past and again we could enjoy the beauty of the finca.

For the next two weeks, I stayed with my host family. I had a mother, father, younger sister, younger brother, and older brother. We lived in a humble home on a hill only a short walk from the school where my group did community service. During the process of choosing which summer program I was going on, I was sure I didn’t want to stay with a host family. I thought about how odd it would be to stay in a stranger’s home and be forced to be integrated into their family and lifestyle. I also knew that language would be a huge barrier. I felt like staying with my peers instead would allow me to enjoy the experience more because I would be able to communicate with them and share my experiences. As soon as I met my host family, they greeted me with warmth and acceptance. I was immediately a part of their family and I felt it. They were the nicest people and the most wholesome family. They supported each other and loved each other so much. They loved spending time with each other and I loved that about them. There is such a huge emphasis on family in Costa Rica. It is like nothing I have ever experienced. It was so wonderful to not only see firsthand such a beautiful family relationship, but to also be a part of it.

“It was an amazing trip that I will remember forever and will be forever grateful to everyone that made it possible.”

During my fourth week, I stayed in a national park where I helped park rangers to improve and build rainforest trails. The highlight of the trip, however, was the Costa Rican coffee which is incredibly savory. While there, I got to take a tour of a coffee plantation. I was absolutely in love with it. I was so happy just to be there and I was absorbing everything with such enthusiasm. I was joking around with my friends that I had found my calling, but I really think I did, or at least I found something that I want to work with. I started to think that maybe I could work on the business side of the coffee industry, like exporting or sales. Coffee also is a way of connecting and spending time with people, especially family. I love going to my grandma’s house and drinking coffee with her and my mom.

In all, it was an amazing trip that I will remember forever and will be forever grateful to everyone that made it possible. The one small detail, coffee, is what stood out the most for me. Even if I don’t go into the coffee industry when I grow up, at least I finally know what it feels like to be passionate about something. Whatever my future passion will be, I now know how to recognize the excitement and the feelings that I should have when I do find it.”

Farther Foundation and the students we serve depend on the tax deductible donations from people like you to make these life changing experiences possible. Visit our website to make a donation online.

Farther Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization providing scholarships to low-income students to inspire them to reach their highest aspirations through educational travel experiences.

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Filed under eduactional travel grants, Service, travel

Student essay contest winners for 2010

Each year, Farther Foundation provides opportunities for economically disadvantaged high school students from the Chicago area to travel worldwide and interact with individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. They participate in programs where they are immersed in new cultures, learn and develop skills, provide service, cultivate leadership potential and attain personaDoloresl growth.

Upon their return, the students submit photos and essays describing their experiences. A panel from Farther Foundation selects its favorites and awards cash prizes to the students who submitted the top three in each category. During 2010, our scholars traveled to six different continents and returned with wonderful stories epitomizing the joy and enlightenment of discovering new places, new people and new experiences.

Click on the links to read excerpts from the top essays as selected by our panel:

1st  place: Dolores describes her experience in Argentina where she volunteered at a center for children with disabilities.

2nd place: Chandrea traveled to Mexico and experienced a series of “firsts” which continues to impact her life.

3rd  place: Abbi traveled to Israel and found commonality amongst people in a new and foreign setting.

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Filed under scholarships, travel, Youth