Amanda Arroyo is a student at California Lutheran University and is an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures blogger corresponding with the Study Abroad Center at Cal Lutheran. Amanda is currently studying and participating in service-learning abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica on a Fall Study + Service-Learning program.
When I decided to study abroad, I not only wanted to immerse myself into a new culture but I wanted to get the most out of my experience. I wanted to give back to the community that I was going to be living in. I wanted the most life changing experience. Once I found out about ISA Service-Learning, I knew in my heart that that was going to be the only way to get the kind of experience that I wanted.
I am the type of person that loves a challenge. I will do anything in order to get that challenge. For the last couple weeks, I haven’t felt challenged enough. Some days got uninspiring despite my thirst for adventure. We all have those days. But I figured that since I was having too many uninspiring days, I needed to inspire myself instead of having to search for things to inspire me. I had faith. And with that faith came what I had been searching for all along. I was finally able to start my volunteering experience through ISA Service-Learning.
A little side note about what ISA Service-Learning is: it’s a division of ISA that allows students to get involved in service-learning while abroad. ISA Service-Learning matches students with different organizations based on their interests, skills, and language level. I am extremely passionate about the medical field so I was happy to be placed in a children’s hospital.
After not being able to volunteer the entire first month I was here due to class scheduling conflicts… finally being able to start working there everyday has helped me become inspired all over again.
My job: each day it changes. There is a whiteboard in the main office that shows a list of which children in the hospital need someone to keep them company for whatever reason it is. Maybe the child could have come from a town 8 hours away for help and their parents need to sleep, shower, eat, etc. It is our job to keep that child company. The children range from oncology patients, to neonatal, to general consults. The list goes on. We are to entertain these kids. Make them feel welcome and loved. We work one on one with these children. Holding them, playing with them. Doing whatever it takes. We are surrounded by doctors and nurses who are more than willing to help with questions we have and teach us all they know.
At first I was nervous because my Spanish is not up to where I would like it to be and I knew I’d have a difficult time getting my exact point across. Although I end up getting the point across it’s still quite difficult. But I’m learning as I go. I was also extremely happy because I finally felt in my element and was doing what I love doing. Being at the hospital has also solidified what I am meant to be doing with the rest of my life and that is being in the medical field.
So why am I inspired?
Because this is my character in a nut shell. It defines my being to a T. I love caring for people and through whatever means necessary to make them feel better. Adults. Children. Elderly. Anyone really. This is why I need and want to be a nurse. Why I thrive to learn all I can to become an even better nurse. And to have the opportunity to do something like this in another country, out of my comfort zone, is the most inspirational thing in the world. I will be able to give my heart to these children. They will leave their mark on my heart allowing me to take what they taught me back to the States and apply it to other patients.
If you want a real study abroad experience, my advice is to take advantage of every opportunity given to you. I found that in ISA Service-Learning and I encourage you to volunteer if it suits you. It’s an amazing experience.