Alumni Spotlight: Madeleine Philip

Tell us a little about yourself and your trip.

Madeleine: I live in Highland, Michigan but was born in Ontario, Canada. I went on the beachside service adventure from July 17-27, 2011. I am currently a junior at the International Academy and I am about to turn 17!

My Costa Rica trip was my first time traveling alone, but this summer I will be traveling to Thailand with GLA again, but for two weeks this time, doing different service projects this time and I am very excited! And if anyone is interested in hearing more or have specific questions they can feel free to e-mail me or find me on Facebook!

Swimming in Costa Rica

Why did you decide to volunteer with GLA in Costa Rica?

Madeleine: I was actually looking into some travel abroad opportunities for students in University and I happened to stumble upon the GLA website, and I requested a catalog. All of the trips looked so amazing (I'm actually going on another this summer) but I had never travelled alone before and I knew my parents wouldn't want me to travel for too long, so I focused more on the shorter trips at first, and then I found the beachside service adventure in Costa Rica.

I have two passions, learning and traveling, the beachside service adventure allowed me to travel to Costa Rica and experience the culture hands on as well as make a difference in the country teaching school children and helping the clean beaches so tourists could travel to them. It was the perfect blend of a trip, and my parents agreed too which of course is what even made it possible.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Madeleine: For the Beachside Service Adventure, all students are in Costa Rica for ten days, the majority of the weekdays and designated to the trips designated service trip, and the weekends were for the adventure aspect of the trip.

So for the weekdays we would all wake up and go eat breakfast together, topped with fresh Costa Rican pineapple (my favorite!). After breakfast we would have a little bit of time to get ready and fill up water bottles and what not before hopping on the bus and heading to the service sites.

For our trip, we spent almost every morning at the local school teaching english, playing games, and building amazing relationships with these young children, it was the highlight of my trip! We'd usually be at the school all morning and through part of the afternoon, until it was time to head back to our home base for lunch. After lunch we would either have some local speakers come talk about Costa Rican culture or we would head to a nearby beach to clean up, both which were great ways to learn about the country. Time flew by and then it was dinner time and the night died down and we all fell into bed pretty early.

But we spent the weekend zip lining, hiking through the jungle, white water rafting, and horse back riding through the jungle. Each day was different but still amazing!

What made this volunteer experience unique and special?

Madeleine: GLA is a unique group because they know the perfect way to build a trip for high school students. They combine fun hands on service activities as well as a unique way to experience the culture of another country. We had speakers come tell us about Costa Rica, as well as some of the GLA staff members are native Costa Ricans so they had lots to share as well.

But students are also able to have their own experiences, and build amazing relationships with all the kids who go on the same trip, because right off the bat you all have something in common. We all came as strangers just wanting to make a difference, and I left with life long friends and life changing experiences that completely changed my outlook on life.

In Costa Rica they have this saying, Pura Vida, it literally means Pure Life, and thats how the Costa Rican's live. It's a saying I now have hanging above my bed, just as a reminder of how life should be lived.

How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

Madeleine: This trip changed how I view the world, I not only became more in touch with myself while I was in Costa Rica but I also learned that I am happiest when I can help others, and that is an idea I carry with me now. The children I spent time with in Costa Rica helped me to appreciate what I have, and what I don't, I was supposed to be there teaching them, but I think in the end they taught me more about myself and about how to live than words can express, it is truly something that all people should have the chance to experience.