Alumni Spotlight: Ellie Dale

Ellie is a 16-year-old girl who loves to travel and meet new people. She is always up for an adventure and, when travelling, likes to do as much as she can.

Why did you choose this program?

When I came across Blyth, I thought it sounded like an amazing opportunity, but was not completely sure where to go. I decided I wanted somewhere hotter and a more tropical climate and managed to narrow it down to Cozumel, Hawaii, and Costa Rica. Hawaii was more expensive and both Hawaii and Cozumel I did not think would have as much of a cultural experience attached to the trip, so I decided to go to Costa Rica and it was the perfect match for me! It was both hot, beautiful and cultural, and was amazing!

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Every day of the trip, breakfast, and dinner were included with announcements the night before, giving us our schedule for the following day. They also provided us with a brief tour and suggestions of where to go including grocery stores, restaurants and souvenir places in each town we stayed in. We were in charge of our own lunches and anything extra we wanted to purchase in our free time.

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

Make the best out of every moment and it will be amazing. Keep up with your schoolwork, but don't spend your whole trip doing it. That said, do not worry about missing out on one night or activity, there will be many more! Talk to everybody and try as many new things as you can. If there is an opportunity for a new adventure, take it!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The daily schedule varies a lot on the trip; however, the average day looked like this:

Breakfast at 8 am, followed by morning class until approx 11-12. 1-2 hours for lunch break. Then, went to pool or beach and did homework for an hour or two and then had some free time before dinner to swim, go into town, etc. (I took grade 11 bio and we tended to have class a lot, less than the English classes, who then often had it again in the afternoon).

Had dinner at 7:00, but announcements started at 6:45. 7:30-11:00 on weekdays and 7:30-12:30 on weekends; we could sign out and go into town or stay and swim or hangout. After curfew, room check and then bed.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear prior to the program was that I was not going to make friends. When I originally registered, I had signed up by myself. I was prepared to go by myself and was excited but was still nervous. About a month later, one of my friends signed up too, so I knew that I had her. Then, at orientation, there were 8 other people from Ottawa and we all became friends before we left.

Even if you do not know anyone going into the trip, I quickly realized I would have been more than fine on my own. Everybody was already making friends before we even got onto the plane and most people on my trip had registered by themselves but had all made new best friends partly into the trip!

What were some highlights of your trip?

Some highlights of my trip were definitely the optional excursions that I did.

I chose to do the surfing, snorkelling and volunteering and they were all amazing. The volunteering, you play with kids for a few hours and they are the nicest most inclusive kids I have ever seen and makes you realize how you really do not need much to be happy.

The snorkelling excursion was not just snorkelling, but also a sunset cruise! While snorkelling, I saw sea turtles, sea urchins, colourful fish and held an octopus. When we were back on the boat, we could sit at the tip with our feet hanging over the edge and dolphins came and swam right under our feet. Another big highlight for me was the beach sunsets. They were the most amazing sunsets I had ever seen, and surrounded by the mountains beside the beach it was incredible.

One last big highlight of my trip for me was on the last day my friends and I woke up at 5 am to go watch the sunrise on the beach. The beach was empty and we just sang and danced. It was the most amazing way to say goodbye to Costa Rica.