Miya volunteered abroad in Costa Rica with World Endeavors assisting at an orphanage and teaching English at a school.
As a freshman at Yale University, Miya had plans to go to medical school. Knowing that her next two summers would be occupied doing research and preparing for the MCAT, Miya decided to go abroad the summer after her freshman year. “I wanted to improve my command of the Spanish language and learn about the culture and history of another country,” she explained. In the summer of 2005, Miya volunteered for six weeks in the World Endeavors program in Atenas, Costa Rica, working in an orphanage and teaching English to children in grades one through six.
“A long time before I left, I had positive expectations for the trip,” said Miya. But as the date grew closer she found herself getting more and more nervous. “I thought, what if my family doesn’t like me? What if I get sick?”
Her fears, as fears often are, turned out to be unfounded. “The people were so supportive and loving,” said Miya. “I felt like I was part of the family.”
Miya’s host family had a large network of cousins who all lived within shouting distance. The family would cook together, and at night would go dancing, or go sit in the centro (a park), and talk or eat ice cream. “I was surprised at how smooth the transition was,” said Miya. She noted that the World Endeavors staff on location—Diego and Mercedes, and Mercedes’ husband and daughter –were particularly helpful, taking her right to her neighborhood from the airport, and checking up periodically to make sure everything was going well.
While her nights were spent dancing, cooking, and talking with her host family, Miya’s days were occupied with the children of her host city. “I would teach in the morning, and work in the orphanage in the afternoon,” said Miya, whose placements were within walking distance from her host family. While the children were a lot of work, Miya felt a strong connection to the kids in the orphanage.
Miya noted that Costa Rica is one of the more developed countries in Central America. A nearby Internet café, for example, helped her to stay in touch with her family while she was away. And now, back in the United States, the Internet helps her keep in touch with her host family. Their correspondence continues in Spanish. And her host parents, Rosario and Jorge, recently sent Miya a Christmas card through the mail.
Back at school, Miya continues to pursue her instinct to improve education through volunteering. She participates in a mentoring group and works on a community health education program for high school students. Her time in Costa Rica, she says, “fits right into my interests in global health.”