Alumni Spotlight: Willa Imhoff

Volunteering in Costa Rica

Give us a little intro

Willa is currently a freshman at Colorado College and grew up in Sonoma County, California. While she has yet to decide on a major, here academic interests are the environment and food systems. Her go-to dance move is the Running Man.

Why did you pick this program?

I chose ARCC's Latin America Gap Program because I had traveled to Africa with them the summer of my junior year and had the best three weeks of my life. A big part that interested me was being able to practice my Spanish, as well as seeing more of Latin America.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

The year that we have between high school and college is an amazing opportunity to take time off of school and see the world. It is a breath of fresh air and allows you to see parts of the world, communities, cultures, cuisines, and people that you wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to come in contact with. It's a time in your life that you'll never forget, and can enjoy being free from most responsibilities before entering the big world of college and adulthood.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

One piece of advice that I would give is to know that within your gap semester/year, you'll see a lot and learn a lot. Which is of course really great, but you'll also face personal challenges, and it's important to recognize that going in.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

My favorite story about my gap semester was when we were in a rural village on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. We worked with a non-profit organization that focuses on eliminating the turtle poaching that occurs along the beaches. There were nightly patrols during which we walked along the beach looking for turtle tracks from females laying their eggs, aiming to locate them before the poachers came across them. One night, my group came across some tracks and I got to collect the eggs from the turtle and relocate them to a hatchery where they were safe from the poachers. It was a very "intimate" experience, and one I know I'll never get to experience ever again.

Was it hard to travel with the same 13 people for three months?

The answer is yes. You have days where all you want to do is scream, but you also have days where you are so happy to be with those people and at the end of the day, you're one big family. At the end of the trip, you'll miss them all like crazy and be so happy to have formed those bonds with them.