During the Fall 2018 semester in Asia, I found out that ARCCwas opening a new program in the spring, in Patagonia and Cuba. My original plan had been to go back to China in the Spring, with a different organization. However, that other organization’s program mostly did things that I was already doing in Asia. Patagonia and Cuba – that would be new to me, but at the same time be with ARCC, which I had great confidence in, so I switched plans. I’m so glad that I did!
I came into Spring Patagonia/Cuba semester trying not to judge it against my last semester, because I think that every trip is unique and special. This semester was very different from my last semester in many ways. I set a goal for this semester to have in more confidence in myself. I experienced a lot of ups and downs this semester which in the end were all worth it to me because in life you are expected to have a lot of highs and lows. We started off in Santiago, Chile where we spent a couple of days exploring the city. I had an opportunity to take part in a week-long language school in Vina del Mar. The class was challenging because I had never taken Spanish, but it was helpful since were were going to be in Chile for 2 months. I also got the chance to learn how to surf while helping local kids how to surf.
In Patagonia, we took on several hikes with a range of difficulty; I enjoyed them because they challenged me physically and the views were magnificent. We also did a lot of camping and learning to set up tents. Even though we had some difficult moments, that didn’t stop me from continuing to have another great life experience! On an especially bright side, when I arrived in Cuba I experienced a cultural that was very interesting to me. Not a lot of people get the chance to go to Cuba, and I am beyond happy that I got that opportunity. I was able to have a salsa dancing class which was super fun - something I’d been wanted to learn ever since I took dance in high school. Some other highlights of my trip included working on a pineapple farm and snorkeling in the Bay of Pigs. There are a lot of misconceptions about Cuba from a USA point of view, but when I delivered food on horse and buggy to the people, I learned that the people in Cuba are really nice and welcoming. Although my gap year has come to an end, I will never forget all long-lasting relationships and memories I’ve made and I know it isn’t the end of traveling for me!