Why did you pick this program?
Brett: The main reason I picked ARCC was the diversity of experiences I got to have while on the trip. I got to experience just about everything South America had to offer. Our group went white water rafting, zip lining, hiked the highest active volcano in the world, stood on the equator, volunteered at orphanages, helped build schools, taught english, lived on the Amazon for a week, swam in Lake Titicaca, visited Machu Picchu, helped build a pond for endangered tree frogs, helped collect, release, and conduct research on baby see turtles with Turtle Trax, and got to spend some time learning to surf at one of the most famous surf spots in Costa Rica.
Everyday was a new adventure and there was never a dull moment. ARCC gave me chance to try all kinds of new things and develop special connections with many different people from many different backgrounds.
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
Brett: One of the most important things I learned was how to connect with different kinds of people. Not only did I build friendships with the different members of my group, but I also got to be great friends with people from all over South America. I had the chance to interact with so many different people from different backgrounds and got to create special connections that I will always remember.
One of my favorite friendships that I made was with a boy named Junior who was a 12 years old and a member of my host family on the Amazon. Even though my Spanish wasn't great and he could not speak any english, we had so much fun playing soccer and baseball and playing at the river. He taught me how to fish using the special nets that they use on the Amazon and took me on several cool adventures through the rain forest.
I think it was very important that I learned how to step out of my comfort zone and connect with people who I often had very little in common with.
What was the hardest part about going abroad?
Brett: I think the hardest part of my trip was that we were always on the move so we never really had a place to call home. We had so many different adventures that we were never in one place for more than a week.
While at times this was difficult, it was also one of my favorite parts of the trip because we had so many different adventures.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
Brett: I tell them that they should go for it! It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and they definitely will not regret it.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
Brett: My favorite story occurred when I got to spend a week on the Amazon with my host family. Every morning I helped my host family farm and fish, and in the afternoons we would come together and play a huge community soccer game.
My favorite story on the Amazon, however, happened the first night. I arrived at my family's house and set down my bag in the sleeping area. One of the daughters walked into the room to greet me and, to my disbelief, she had a monkey sitting on her shoulder. The monkey apparently wanted to greet me as well because he jumped right off her shoulder and on to my chest. They told me he had a growth defect and they had rescued him from the wild. He spent each day climbing the trees around the house with the other monkeys, but would always come back at nights to sleep with them and for safety.
After the monkey was done greeting me, the kids all brought me down to the river where we spent about two hours playing in the water. The kids loved being tossed into the air and we had a an awesome time together. Between the monkey and river, it was definitely my favorite night of the trip.