The Villa Globe Wanderers, a group of students from Villa Victoria Academy, Ewing, pose for a photo during their June trip to Costa Rica. Those involved in the Villa International Travel Club are already planning a trip for next summer. Courtesy photos
The Villa Globe Wanderers, a group of students from Villa Victoria Academy, Ewing, pose for a photo during their June trip to Costa Rica. Those involved in the Villa International Travel Club are already planning a trip for next summer. Courtesy photos

Editor’s Note: This past June, a group of students from Villa Victoria Academy traveled to Costa Rica as part of the Ewing school’s International Travel Club, which was started last school year by Spanish teacher Señora Grisselle Laborde. Over the past year, the students met and learned about different cultures, and the trip was a chance for the students to experience firsthand what they had learned. Following is a reflection from senior Julia Henninger.

If you were to ask any teen in high school what they want to do when they grow up, many would say they wanted to become a doctor, a lawyer or maybe even a popstar. However, there will be a select bunch who will tell you they want to explore the world and its many treasures. The Villa Victoria Academy Globe Wanderers are that bunch.

At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, the high school students at Villa Victoria Academy were given the opportunity, thanks to Spanish teacher and club moderator Señora Grisselle Laborde, to travel to Costa Rica for nine days. Eleven girls took on the challenge.  

“I have always been passionate about traveling to see the world and meeting new people,” Señora Laborde said, “but there is a greater joy when I get to enjoy the world through the experiences and smiles of my students.”

Passionate, inspired and maybe even a little nervous, these 11 Villa girls, two adults and two chaperones boarded a 7 a.m. flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. Their primary goal was to immerse themselves in Costa Rican culture, community and language. Over the course of nine days, not only did they immerse themselves, but they also met many friendly faces and made future friends. Carlos and Marco, the tour group’s 24/7 tour guide and bus driver, were two people they will certainly never forget. They exhibited their beautiful country with pride and taught the Villa girls everything they wanted to know about Costa Rica. 

The group made many off-road stops to see sleeping sloths and listen for howler monkeys, two of the most indigenous and popular animals in Costa Rica. It also included a surprise trip to a community park in Monte Verde, where the girls and adults played volleyball and soccer with a handful of locals. Even though there was a massive language gap between the two groups, they were able to connect through a shared love of the games as well as Señora Laborde, who happily provided translations for both groups. 

When they were not interacting with the locals and learning about national wildlife, the Globe Wanderers were learning about the biodiversity of Costa Rican rainforests and the sustainable efforts made to keep Costa Rica green. Costa Rica holds almost six percent of the world’s biodiversity, and for the girls to learn about all of it in nine days seemed impossible. However, the numerous nature walks and Carlos’ seemingly endless amount of knowledge on the subject made the beauty of Costa Rican wildlife both educational and jaw-dropping. Not only are the Globe Wanderers  now well-versed in the subject of Costa Rican biodiversity, but they are now also familiar with the efforts to make Costa Rica a more green and environmentally friendly place to visit. All of the Villa girls were excited to see biodegradable utensils (straws, plastic cups, etc.), multiple recycling stations and friendly reminders on energy and water conservation. Because of these efforts, Costa Rica is truly an environmentalist’s paradise. 

“Costa Rica is the most beautiful country that I have ever seen!” Villa Victoria senior Grace Yeretzian said. “The people there are so kind and willing to share their wonderful home with us.”

Fellow senior Olivia Henninger agreed. “It was the cleanest and greenest country I had ever seen,” she said.

On the last day of the trip, the Globe Wanderers were able to watch dances originating from Costa Rican tribes within coastal regions and mountains. These presentations were filled with laughter, grace and passion. Some of the girls were able to participate in the traditional dancing, and those on the sidelines took videos as mementos to share with family and friends. 

It would be impossible to summarize the importance of this trip entirely in one article, but to put it frankly, nothing could have prepared them for the amount of love and community showered upon them. At the final hours of the trip, most were consumed with emotion and love of Costa Rica. Some even plan on returning in the future in order to relive memories and visit the community park with hopefully a bridged language gap. It was certainly difficult to say goodbye to the friends and memories they had made during this life changing experience. But all 15 people in the Villa Victoria Academy Globe Wanderers can say for certain that their goal of immersing themselves in Costa Rican culture, community and language was fulfilled far beyond expectation.

Junior Leigh Machion said that “exploring cities, rainforests, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, volcanoes and beaches with such a great group of girls was the highlight of my summer.”