I spent hours looking through programs while fantasizing about my year abroad while I was in high school, and in doing so, I noticed I was subconsciously compiling everything I wanted in a program. I wanted to continue to learn Spanish, volunteer on a variety of projects, go on adventures across multiple countries, and become a certified scuba diver. Carpe had it all, including the perfect ~ 3-month time frame that had me set for the semester.
Jillian is a student from northern Virginia who decided to take a year off after high school before attending engineering school. She wanted to take a year to have fun, see the world, and learn about it and herself in the process.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I had to book a flight to LA, where the whole group was meeting up, and of course get gear for the trip as well as medications/vaccinations. Aside from those things carpe took care of it all, you really didn’t have to know what was happening after you arrived with the group, all flights during the trip were booked and you could contact carpe with any questions at any point before the trip, if you hadn’t asked them already in the interview process.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Don’t stress too much about packing. It’s good to pack light, but you can get away with the bare essentials pretty easily. I practically wore the same Adidas soccer shorts for the entire trip and while I would’ve liked to have had some jean shorts from time to time instead of another pair of athletic shorts, it didn’t really matter.
Also don’t stress about the people. You’re not allowed to have your phone for carpe which I was thankful for in the end so you have no way of avoiding getting close to your group. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can create a little family with a bunch of strangers who are in it just like you.
Take lots of pictures/be in lots of pictures. I wasn’t taking classes on the program so I wasn’t required to journal, but I kept it up every day and am so thankful for it looking back.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
One of the best things about carpe is that every week is different. An average week could consist of living in home stays, studying Spanish in the morning and volunteering in the evening. Or it could be days on the beach filled with surfing classes and sustainability/community workshops and lots of local food and fun. Some weeks you’re learning to scuba and others you’re playing with kids in a local preschool every morning. Every week was different but every week was great.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I was pretty positive going into the program so I didn’t have a ton of huge fears, though I was a bit worried I’d not love my group and not able to be fully comfortable/myself for 3 whole months. This didn’t cure every worry but to see and talk to and joke around with the actual people helped and a lot and even though I was still skeptical on my flight to LA as soon as I sat with the group in the airport everything was fine. And I met some of my best friends and favorite people on that semester.
What was one of your unexpected favorite memories/parts of the trip?
I knew I was going to love scuba diving, and seeing baby turtles crawl to the ocean for the first time, and I knew I’d love hiking up volcanoes (though I never thought I’d get to sleep next to an active one), but one of my favorite memories of the trip was actually more of a spontaneous every day occasion.
We were in Peñas Blancas, Nicaragua where we spent the week entirely off the grid in a gorgeous jungle type area with huge white cliff faces surrounding the village. We spent the mornings working on building a compost toilet for a local families, and we had the option to chill in the evenings or do one of the activities the had planned for the day. That days activity was a tour of one of the local coffee farms, where else could learn about the coffee production/harvesting process that was such a vital part of the area. It had been a long work day and a lot of people opted out of the tour but I and a little less than half the group went for it.
The tour was fun, but at the end they asked us if we wanted to go on a mini hike to a small waterfall where we could go swimming. We of course said yes and before we knew it we knew it we were walking off trail through a jungle with literal vines hanging around us and we made it to this small water fall and we all got to go swimming after a hot day and enjoy the beautiful area as rain started to sprinkle down on top of us.