Alumni Spotlight: Matthew Mamelak

Matthew is an adventurous, hardworking and enthusiastic person who loves exploring new places while meeting new people. He loves taking risks and trying things he has never done or seen before.

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Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because of everything it has to offer.

I went on this trip not knowing a single person. I never knew I would come home with friendships across Canada. My brother went on this trip 3 years before I did, and he said it was the summer of his life. So I looked into it and found out as much as I could. From the reviews I read, everyone seemed to have loved this trip. I also saw how many optional excursions and opportunities you have on this trip. Since I love stepping outside my comfort zone and trying new things, I knew that this trip would be an excellent fit.

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

Blyth Academy had a pre-departure orientation that went through the academic components of the trip, as well as other things like what to pack, and how we should prepare. They also talked about things like safety and told us what we should stay away from. They talked about all the different opportunities this trip has to offer and they also gave us a schedule and a general idea of what was happening each day and how a regular day would look like. It was an excellent orientation. They really did an amazing job preparing you for the trip.

The only thing I had to do on my own was to sign up for the trip and let my main school know that I will be completing a course over the summer with Blyth Academy. Other than that, they really did everything for me. They even printed the boarding passes and guided us through the airport to our terminal!

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

Time flies by. Do everything you can, don't wait to do something because before you know it, you won't have enough time. Also, try new things. You will likely be on a trip with people you have never met before. Reach out to them, meet new people, make new friendships. Everyone on these trips wants to meet new people, so be the first person to reach out and say hello.

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

A typical day on this trip varies.

On a normal "school" day, without any optional excursions, you will wake up at a reasonable time, around 8:30 AM, eat breakfast at the central meeting area and head to your morning class. The coolest part about the class was that it did not take place in a standard classroom setting: sometimes we had class in the pool, sometimes by the beach, one time we had class at a restaurant in town.

Class time ranges depending on what's going on that day. You generally have around one and a half to two hours of free time to walk into town and get something for lunch or go for a swim in the ocean or your pool steps away from your room. There is usually a class in the afternoon for about two hours, but it really depends on the day and what is going on.

After dinner, you have free time until curfew. When there is an excursion, the day is completely different and the teacher will find a time to fit in a class either that day or on another day. Blyth has made a very organized and well thought out schedule. I was never stressed out for having to much work, and I never thought work restricted me from going out with my friends and having free time to relax and explore.

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 was the unknown, but this was also the biggest draw for me.

I have never been to Costa Rica and I was a little concerned not knowing what it was like. Going on a trip with 80 other people who were there to meet new people and have a great time was what motivated me to step outside my comfort zone, be the first to approach people and ultimately make life-long friendships and memories. I realized that if you don't just go for it and reach out to new people and try new things, life will just pass you by.

If there is one thing to keep in mind throughout the trip, what should it be?

Remember that you are on a SCHOOL trip. You are completing a certified school credit, therefore you must still work hard like you are in regular day school.

You can still have a fun time while working hard. Don't waste your time: work in an environment that works for you without any distractions so that you can finish quickly and spend your free time without worrying about completing that assignment that is due tomorrow. Get your work done before you go out.

Often people forget to do their work because they are having such a good time. Don't be irresponsible. School first.