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Bob Hershberger Servicio Program

Hello! My name is Ja’el and I have had the privilege of being a student of Servicio in the 2018 cohort and a leader of the 2021 cohort.

Ja'el Thomas Servicio 2018 & 2021When I arrived freshman year, I was not proficient in Spanish. I realized pretty quickly that my ability to construct sentences and express myself was limited once we did the initiation and I had to speak only in Spanish.

I’m not going to lie, it was hard. I felt like I was hitting a wall mentally and I had multiple discussions with my student leaders however, looking back, I wouldn’t change that experience for anything.

I made many friends through the program that will last a lifetime. When you spend every day, hour and minute with someone, you really get to know them, and we became close because of that.

Ja'el on a bridge in Costa RicaI also learned a lot about what it meant to do service. Before we left for the latter part of the program in Costa Rica, we talked about what it meant to do service, and whether or not we could do it selflessly. I realized that service was about helping those who ask for it, while remaining conscious of impact versus intent. It’s not posting about it online because you think it will make you look cool. I learned that even if it may not be your intent to come off as proud or presumptuous, that could be your impact, so think before you post.

Going to Costa Rica was my first study abroad experience, first plane ride, first time going to the ocean, first time being in a boat, so many firsts.

It was definitely a culture shock. I didn’t have cell service so it really forced me to connect with my surroundings. I learned a lot about nature in Costa Rica, and how eco friendly they were. It definitely expanded my worldview. Alot of our time was spent on the bus traveling to different parts of Costa Rica like Monteverde where it rained almost everyday, and Playa Blanca where we got to tag sea turtles.The leaders of Ecoteach, the program we partnered with, were awesome. Manuel could tell you about any bird fact, and Mongo, who is the age of my grandparents, had the heart of a kid. He was constantly playing practical jokes.

I'd learned a lot more than I thought I had, and improved a great deal.  Going into college, I planned to be a Spanish minor, but ended up a Spanish major because after the program I felt that I could do it.

Group photo Servicio Costa Rica