Day 8: Reflections on our Costa Rica experience

I can’t believe that this is our last blog post and our last day in Costa Rica! Our groups are getting ready to board our flights home, and we are feeling tired but very grateful.

Mr. Pryor Lorentz and the rest of our chaperones led an exercise this morning that allowed us the time to reflect on what we want to take with us from this trip and what we want to leave behind. I’m sure your students will have a lot to tell you when they return home!

Here are our last guest bloggers’ perspectives:

Sean Mendiola

Looking back at my Costa Rica experience, I want to ensure my newfound mindset of being more ready and more adventurous. There aren’t any words to truly encapsulate the feelings that I experienced throughout my trip. Seeing all the greenery, purity, selflessness, and a sense of a real community makes me happier than ever. I’m away from all of the competition and tension back home in San Francisco. The whole Costa Rican atmosphere reminds me that it is OK to take a step back and become more present with myself. It’s relaxing and rejuvenating. Looking into the future, I want to help more people, more specifically the kids here and other foreign places. Since I grew up in the city, I realize that many of us take our materialistic items for granted. A week into this trip, I’ve adapted to become more thankful for what I have, and I even see myself living more simplistically. Overall, this immersion trip has helped me change my mindset to be more outgoing and true to myself.

Abby Widjanarko

My Costa Rica experience was one that has been truly unforgettable. I had never been on a trip outside of the country without my parents so that was something new. Even though there were some days of long traveling on the bus, I felt that it allowed for a more peaceful way to bond. One of the most memorable experiences that I had was the night where the musicians came and played music while we all danced. It was quite cool to see how as a class we were not embarrassed to just dance with each other. This experience was, in short, an outlet for us sophomores to ground ourselves and debrief in the middle of our second year of high school. It made for opportunities for self-reflection, community building, and a development of self-awareness that is so easily obtainable in an environment of Pura Vida.

Cole Slater and Elsa Hagstrom

On Tuesday, we went to the Nayuca Waterfalls. To start our day off, our group traveled to a horse ranch to saddle up and venture to the roaring waterfall.  Along the way, we were able to work on creating new relationships with our peers as well as with the guides who were accompanying us to the waterfall. When jumping off the waterfall, we had to rely on our peers to help us climb to the jumping point. By the end of the day, and by the end of the trip, we as a whole group were able to bring back a sense of an even stronger community than before as well as a sense of bravery and openness to try new things because of our willingness to step outside of our comfort zones.

Day 6 + 7: Rafting, Sea Turtle Refuge, and Travel to San Jose

Hello again from San Jose! We have finished our activities in and around Dominical today, and we are back in San Jose awaiting our flights back home tomorrow afternoon.

We spent yesterday rotating through two different activities—white water rafting on the Savegre River and helping with sea turtle hatchery/habitat restoration work at Hacienda Baru, a wildlife sanctuary and research center in Dominical.

In the evening, our very talented students performed in our annual Costa Rica talent show, and this year’s was one for the history books! Student acts ranged from an a cappella performance of Justin Bieber to a standup comedy act to a tap dance to a feat of hot sauce drinking to a Polka song performance in Finnish.

Today we spent the morning exploring caves at a local beach, and then departed for San Jose to begin the last leg of our travels. Everyone is tired from a busy week, but we are still enjoying each other’s company as we play card games and sing to pass the time without technology.

Here are a couple more reflections from our students:

Rainier Dela Cruz

On Day 6, we began in the morning with turtle habitats and then went white water rafting in the afternoon. At the habitat we cleaned up the beach, collected coconuts, and dug up trenches. At what felt like 89°F, I tiredly worked in a little sandlot that was not far from the beach. My group persevered for an hour through the heat, digging up very wide and long knee deep trenches. I felt like I was in the book Holes by Louis Sachar where characters dug up holes in order to find specific riches. Imagining that I too was trying to discover treasures similar to the characters in the book, I pushed myself to continue digging.

After lunch, my group went rafting in a class 2-3 river, meaning that the water is mixed with both fast rapids and smooth waters. Approximately halfway through the ride, we all stopped at a waterfall for wonderful water massages. In addition to making our way through the river while singing “We Will Rock You”, we learned that the storm changed 75% of the houses nearby.

At night, after a successful day of service and adventure, we had a talent show, exhibiting both student and teacher talents. Nick Kuwada and I sang “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” while I accompanied on the ukulele. We had a really fun time performing, as everyone was invited to sing along. Ending the night on a high note, Nick and I won for Best Act. Other acts won for Best Duet Vocal Act, Best Solo Act, and Best Comedy Act.

Overall, this trip was an exhilarating experience and I am really bummed out that it is ending soon.

Alisha Kalra

My favorite part of the trip was the waterfall. It was so exhilarating jumping off the rocks into the water. I was first nervous but with the encouragement of my peers I was able to do it. ¡Pura vida!


We leave our hostel tomorrow for our return flights home, and we will try to update the blog tomorrow morning with more student perspectives and pictures. Uploading photos has been a bit challenging with our WiFi connections, but check out our Costa Rica 2018 Flickr Album and this blog for updates as we get more pictures uploaded. We are excited to share more pictures and videos of our adventures with you!


Day 4 + 5: Last two activity rotations

Greetings from Dominical! We have finished our last two main activity rotations, and tomorrow we will split into different groups for our final service and adventure activities. Here are some fun reflections from our students about their last two days:

Henry Sears:

Today my activity group went to the waterfall and went horseback riding. After we got to the horse stables, our group split into two, and I was placed into the group that would ride to the waterfall, while the other group took the trucks. My horse was very tall, and loved to gallop. My horse was also very competitive, and when she saw other horses galloping, she started to gallop. It was a very stressful time which ended with the guide having to stop my horse because she kept galloping, even after the others started to trot. After that, we got to the waterfall, and it was amazing! I decided to jump from the waterfall after much hesitation on my part. Besides belly flopping into the water, it was a very fun visit to the waterfall. I took the truck back and saw some of Costa Rica’s amazing scenery! I am sad that our time here is over halfway through, but that leaves a bunch of days in which to have a lot of fun! Pura Vida!

Brooke Wilson:

Today, I went zip-lining in Hacienda Baru, which is a natural reserve and animal corridor. We hiked up through the rainforest for about 40 minutes to reach the first zip line platform. Our guides showed us four sloths and let us taste raw coco beans. We went down six exhilarating zip lines, the final one going backwards. After lunch I had the opportunity to take off the coast to go snorkeling. We swam in the warm water and saw yellow puffer fish, star fish, and some kind of huge crab. The boat then took us to observe the system of underwater caves nearby and saw the beach where one of the most iconic scenes of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was filmed. It was really fun.

Lauren Barrabee:

Yesterday was so much fun, I went zip lining it was breathtaking. When we first got there, we learned a little bit about the nature reserve. Something that I found interesting was that in 1977 there were barely any trees left because of the deforestation that the previous owners had caused. Then, we hiked about 1km to the beginning of the zip line course. As we were walking up we learned that there are tunnels that go underneath the freeway so that different species are able to cross without being in danger of cars. Once we began zip lining, I had a blast. We saw three sloths, they were so cute. Especially the baby sloth. The best part of zip lining was being able to push my boundaries on the last cable when were pushed off backwards at the highest point of the forest. I have had such a fun time on this trip and would love to go again.

After three afternoons of salsa lessons, the students competed in a heated salsa dance competition this evening. The competition was fierce, and the judges Dinh, Gabriel, and Laura were evaluating the entrants on proper footwork and artistry. Huge congratulations go out to our top finishers….3rd place: Adrian and Kate W, 2nd place: Nyxa and Malinalli, and finally in 1st place: Sean and Sam D.

Tomorrow night we will have our very own talent show. We are very excited to share some talents from our students and faculty tomorrow!

Day 3: First day of activity rotations

Today we have three guest writers who reflected on their experiences at the different activities students will cycle through in the next three days: service at a local school, zip lining, and horseback riding to the Nuayuca waterfalls. We will add more pictures to this post tomorrow!

Kate Wing:

The first day of activities were both nerve-racking and very exciting. I went to the waterfall and horseback riding, which was so much fun because I haven’t ridden a horse in a long time, and jumping off a waterfall is something I have always wanted to do. When we arrived at Nuayaca, our group was separated into two groups, one for riding horses down to the waterfall and the other for riding in a truck. Both groups arrived at the waterfall excited and anxious to get in the water. Once in the water, the line to jump grew immensely. The hardest part of the whole jumping experience was the climb up because while you are trying to find a foothold there is a lot of heavy water getting dumped on your head. When you reach the top it’s a bit scary looking down at the bottom, but the instructors there were super patient and kind and told us to take our time and jump when we are ready. The jump is so much fun and I went twice.

On the way back the groups switched and the people who rode on the way there were now in the truck. We stopped somewhere for lunch and had by far the best chicken I have ever tasted along with other delicious foods and drinks. While we were eating we were surrounded by capuchin monkeys, peacocks, and parrots. After we finished the groups continued to ride or drive back to where we started. Riding the horses was so much fun and galloping was my favorite part. Overall my first day was eventful and exciting and worth repeating if I was given the chance.

Emanuel Olivares:

Although the thought at first was quite scary, the zip lining activity was truly an unforgettable experience. Throughout our journey in the hot rain forest, I was able to experience the biodiversity that surrounds the tropical rain forests in Costa Rica. Ranging from sloths to tiny insects such as fire ants, I was truly excited to witness the sheer beauty and complexity of these animals. When walking along the paths in the rainforest I also witnessed various trees that produced different kinds of fruit and consumables. I was most excited to try the cocoa beans, used to make chocolate as well as caffeine. The taste was fairly bitter, but at least I was forewarned. The most unforgettable moment was my experience on the zip line. At first was scared that I might fall off, but that soon transferred into laughter and amazement. When I left the platform I felt the hot air gush past me and for a moment I felt truly consumed by nature. Our first day of adventures was only the beginning of many more to come.

Kameron Makras:

Today at service, we went and spent time kids either painting the wall and fences, or playing soccer. Half the group went with the kids the paint the wall and fences and spend quality time with the kids. Although they had a soccer field at the school, a tree fell in the middle and the other half of the group helped move all the branches and the tree to the side so they can use the whole field. This was a great bonding experience for me because we were able to play soccer with the kids after we cleared out the soccer field. Furthermore, they should great hospitality towards us because not all of us spoke Spanish, the were patient and kind in adapting to the unusual environment for us.

After the service trip, we went out on a snorkeling trip. Most of the people on the service trip went, but also a few others from the zip lining group. We sailed out island to swim around and look around the water. Although not many people saw any fish because the water was misting from the sand, it was still a great time swimming with all my friends and spending time together. After snorkeling, we sailed to a series of caves along the coast as well as the beach featured in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Day 2: Travel day to Dominical

We have arrived in Dominical!

After breakfast this morning, we rode buses to a couple fun stops on the way to Dominical. First we stopped for some local snacks at a roadside market, and everyone got their fill of plantain chips, fresh fruit, and pipas frías (coconut water). Next stop was a bridge that has a fantastic view of a crocodile preserve, and then we were off to spend part of the afternoon at Playa Hermosa in Dominical.

Once we arrived at our lodge, we enjoyed time in the pool and in the common recreation areas with cards and games before dinner. After dinner, we gathered for our second community meeting. Mr. Pryor Lorentz led us in an espacio and in a prayer, and our chaperones shared the plans for the groups in the coming days. Our three groups will cycle through three main activities in the coming days—-service at a local school, horseback riding to a waterfall, and zip lining. We are excited to update you all in the coming days about our adventures!

Day 1: We have arrived in Costa Rica!

Hello blog readers! We have all arrived safely in Costa Rica!

Both groups arrived in San Jose on Saturday, and we settled in at a hostel in San Jose for the night after a day out and about in the city. The Avianca group arrived a bit earlier in the day than the United group, and they were able to visit Parque Nacional Volcán Irazú in the afternoon.

After a long day of traveling, everyone was happy to settle in at our hostel for the night and have a home cooked meal.

We will post another update tonight after our beach day; we check in to our lodging in Dominical this afternoon!