Alumni Spotlight: Abby Waters


Abby Waters is a sixteen year old student from Chicago, Illinois. She attended the Global Works Language Immersion and Cultural Exchange Trip to Costa Rica from July 10, 2013 to July 31, 2013. Abby loves to study Spanish, learn about photography, and play tennis with her siblings.

What inspired you to join the Global Works language immersion and service adventure in Costa Rica?

Abby: Previously, I had attended a summer camp with friends that I had met on the East Coast for seven years. When we were too old to go back, we were deciding on how we would spend our summer together without camp. Our friend's sister had gone on a Global Works trip before, so we agreed on adventuring to Costa Rica. The aspect of volunteerism was also a strong motive for us to join.

What made this language immersion and volunteer abroad experience so unique and special?

Abby: Throughout high school, I have always wanted to escape the classroom and learn from a new point of view. This experience gave me that fresh perspective that I have been wanting for so long. Every day of the trip was packed with opportunities to explore the culture and people of Costa Rica. One of the most unique moments of my life was interacting with the indigenous people of Terraba. Their lives were incredibly complex and beautiful.

Tell us about your favorite instance of connecting with local people.

Abby: There were countless moments during my home-stay when my family would gather together and interact. My host family consisted of six members, including four kids. There was a fourteen year old boy, a thirteen year old girl, a five year old girl, and a nine month old baby girl. The most special memory to me was when my American home-stay partner and I taught the children "American dance moves". The entire family was dancing in our tiny little house to "Barbie Girl". Even though we had a significant language barrier, we could interact through body language such as dancing. It was amazing to watch the smiles on my sibling's faces when they laughed with us.

What was the most interesting cultural difference you encountered?

Abby: During my time in Costa Rica, I was touched by how friendly and caring the families were to each other. One night, all of the families gathered together to make tamales with the students and staff of Global Works. Every village mother was constantly caring for the needs of everyone else. They were so loving and generous to people who were complete strangers to them.

In our society today, we are more hesitant to be as inviting. The most challenging part of my experience was the language barrier. Although I could collaborate with my home-stay partner, it was difficult to speak with my family. In that case, we resorted to communicating using other methods (using a Spanish-English dictionary!).

Has your worldview changed as a result of your trip?

Abby: Since my trip to Costa Rica, my outlook on the world has taken a full 360 degree turn. I learned the importance of keeping an open mind and trying new things. Family has always been a top priority in my life, but now I understand how blessed I am to have the family that I do. The world that some live in today is surrounded by a wall that does not want to expand because it is afraid of change. Discovering the culture and beauty of Costa Rica was vital to my personal expansion of that wall. I am incredibly thankful to have gotten the opportunity to learn so much in just three weeks.