Alumni Spotlight: Gigi Woodall

Gigi Woodall is from Newport Beach, California and is a junior in high school. She enjoys exercising, playing the piano, and volunteering weekly at Susan G. Komen, a breast cancer organization. Her absolute favorite thing to do is travel, whether that be the short distance to Los Angeles, or far far away in Paris! She went to the Dominican Republic from July 8-July 23, 2014.

Why did you decide to enroll with Rustic Pathways in the Dominican Republic?

Gigi: First, I chose to do a Rustic Pathways trip because my friend went on one in Costa Rica the previous summer and loved it. Second, my sister, Lily (age 14) and I (16) decided to go to the Dominican Republic because, after looking at all the options, we decided that the Advanced Leadership Program looked the most rewarding, inspiring, and all around the best option because we got to practice our spanish while working with kids.

What was the most challenging part of the experience? Most rewarding?

Gigi: The most challenging part of the experience was the first day of the camp for a couple reasons. First of all, it was the first time I had ever spoken spanish to people who didn’t know any english. I think another part that was challenging was getting the kids to be excited and comfortable in what they were doing.

Me with (from left to right) Jesus, Nikolas, and Jose.

It was harder for them than for me because they had never been to a place as nice as Rancho de Abraham and had little experience with our customs. Another really challenging part of my experience was saying goodbye to the kids. They were wiping tears off my cheeks, and I was wiping tears off their cheeks.

Knowing that that was the last time I would ever see those thirty lovable kids was heartbreaking and almost unbearable. The most rewarding part of the trip was definitely the last couple days where my friends and I went to an underwater cave.

It was truly an indescribable experience and like nothing I had ever seen before. The cave seemed as though it was out of a post card, mysterious and gorgeous all at the same time.

Tell me about one person you met.

Gigi: One person I met that truly changed my life was a boy named Nikolas. His amazing attitude and participation made it easy and fun for me to work with. His lovable laugh was adorable and it was inevitable that each one of us fell completely in love with him.

Nikolas showed me that you only need a little to love a lot. He was eager to learn how to play “futbol americano” and worked hard at his multiplication tables throughout the week.

What was the best moment of the entire trip?

Gigi: The best moment of the entire trip was the first full day when all sixteen of us girls bonded for four whole hours. Without even knowing each other for four hours, we sat in a cramped room on our suit cases, each of us spilling our secrets and everything about ourselves. It shows how approachable and nice everyone was on the trip.

Another really fun moment was the first time any of us went to a beach in the Dominican Republic. It was the beginning of the second week and we were all in awe at the white sand beaches and crystal clear, aqua- colored water.

Yorkenski and I had a photoshoot during arts and crafts.

Lastly, one of my other favorite moments of the trip was when a little seven year old boy, Yorkenski, came running up to me screaming “GGGIIIIIGGGIIII” and jumped into my arms! He knew my name before I knew his. He ended up being my lil buddy for the rest of the week, and he was often seen sneaking over to my area when he should’ve been in a different spot!

Any tips for someone considering the Advanced Leadership program?

Gigi: For someone considering the Advanced Leadership program, the best few tips I can give you are:

  1. Don’t bring pants or leggings, but bring ALL the athletic shorts you have
  2. Pack casual sundresses for the last couple days (I wished I had some)
  3. Bring a TON of protein/ granola bars
  4. Keep a journal throughout the week
  5. Be prepared for the best experience of your life!
  6. Unless you’re super into photography and want to bring a nice camera, an iPhone or other smart phone is all you really need