Why did you decide to study abroad with Carpe Diem?
Lexi: I went through high school hearing stories and seeing photos of my older sister's adventures with Carpe Diem in Central America and Australia. The extraordinary tales and beautiful snapshots seemed too fantastic to be real, so I decided that after high school I would discover their validity for myself, college could wait. Perusing the website, talking to Carpe staff and reading through the itinerary only convinced me further that a semester with Carpe Diem was right for me. After that the only big decision was where to go, and an interest in learning Spanish dictated that I explore Central America.
What made this experience unique and special?
Lexi: I have studied abroad with other companies and my university, but the support network, opportunities and friendships set Carpe Diem apart. The leaders aren’t just there to herd and translate, but to offer support, guidance and gentle prodding that helped me leap outside my comfort zone. The leaders were also there for the little things like leading sunset beach yoga sessions or strumming a guitar after a long day of volunteering in the Guatemalan Cloud Forest. The extra distance they go was really important for maintaining a good group dynamic with the often challenging pace, where each day could hold a completely new experience. Three years later, I still keep up with my fellow group members because our adventures, from Carnival celebrations to scuba diving, were extraordinary and occasionally impossible to explain to those who were not a part of it.
Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.
Lexi: Every day with Carpe Diem was unique and incomparable to a day at home. A high school language class, while educational, can’t match the value of a one-on-one Spanish lesson spent wandering cobblestone streets discussing your life in a language you began learning a month prior. Learning about endangered species conservation in college cannot possibly compare with the awe I felt while on night patrol for poachers, watching a seven-foot Leatherback turtle lay her eggs on a Costa Rican beach. Most importantly, I could not have learned so much about myself in those same three months at home. Exploring my personal comfort boundaries by being challenged on a daily basis allowed me to better understand my role as a global citizen and as an individual.
If you could do-over one thing, what would it be?
Lexi: If I could do one thing over, it would be to spend my entire gap year abroad with Carpe Diem. I wished I could have participated in the Latitudes program, or engaged in other Carpe trips, because although one semester was fantastic, further personal and international exploration with Carpe Diem could have been even better.