Abigail Johnson

Hi there! I am a soon to be junior at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona. I enjoy soccer and reading the classics, I like to think of myself as a fun nerd :)

Why did you pick this program?

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I picked this program because I wanted to go to a warm country that I have never been to before, which happened to be Costa Rica. Rustic Pathways offered many programs in Costa Rica but I picked the Bri Bri Village Experience because it was one of the most raw and "rustic" program they had. It was literally in the middle of the jungle with no electricity, such an incredible time.

What do you wish someone had told you before you went abroad?

I wished someone had told me to really, really pack light. Also, to be prepared to go off your planned itinerary. It is very hard to go on a planned trip with no hiccups.

What is the most important thing you learned abroad?

The most important thing I learned was to never underestimate my impact. Even if I am not changing the world, even if I affect one person around me I can make a difference.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

You HAVE to do it. It will give you such cool experiences and a new perspective on the world. On my past trip, I made the best of friends and I am so lucky to have gone.

What was the hardest part about going abroad?

The hardest part was the difference in sanitation of my lovely home in Arizona to the middle of the jungle in Costa Rica. I slept in a mosquito tent and had to shower in a cement room basically open to the outside. There were bugs everywhere and the mud was knee-high. I never felt clean.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

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My favorite story to tell is that one night 10 girls out of 16 were on the open floor of my hut and were asleep because it was around midnight and all of the sudden this one super quiet girls starts screaming and using expletives and we had no idea what was going on. She seemed so scared and I went over and she had her hair stuck in the zipper of the tent and there was a huge millipede on her tent wall. She is still screaming and I had to yank her hair out and then use two books to help her get out the millipede. She would not return to her tent and continued to sleep on the floor. We all were laughing so hard I think I got an ab workout.

What made this experience unique and special?

This experience was definitely unique because where we were traveling was so remote we had to take a canoe on a river that borders Panama and Costa Rica and then hike 45 minutes with all of our luggage to the village. It was so special because of the people in the village, they had never met us before but they invited us into their home, cooking for us and looking after us. They were so kind and I felt so lucky to be with them.

Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.

One experience I had was while I was working at the local middle school. I was working on paving a wheel chair ramp into the side of the hill with the children's dads. I was having a hard time lifting the cement since it was so heavy and one of the dads rushed over to help me and once they did, I looked up and got to look out at this beautiful river and rain forest and I had such a surreal moment wondering how I came to be there.

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

One piece of advice I would give is to over pack on socks! You can never under estimate the power clean socks can have after a long day of work.

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions or future path?

This trip was meaningful because I got to go somewhere I never would of gone on my own. This program was not a normal tourist attraction, it was something very unique that no way in a million years I could of found. It changed how I saw the world, knowing that even though our world is obsessed with technology and material things, there are still places where none of that exists.

Were you uncomfortable not having your phone or any method of contact?

Not at all. If had my phone I would never have talked to the girls or the leaders like I did and I wouldn't have forged such amazing relationships. I was also so busy that I wouldn't have had time to talk to people anyway.