Cultivating Global Citizens | ISA Service-Learning

By Megan Kane, Marketing Coordinator

An interview with Miranda Johnson, a University of Tennessee, Knoxville alumna.  Miranda participated in an ISA Service-Learning program in San José, Costa Rica, where she volunteered her time at the National Museum. 


Tell us a bit about yourself.

I graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a double major in Anthropology and Hispanic Studies. I am originally from Harrisburg, North Carolina, right by the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and have spent the last five years living and studying in Knoxville, Tennessee.

How did your previous experience of living in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, spark your interest in Tico culture and history?

During my sophomore year of college, I spent the spring semester studying abroad in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, and traveled all over the country. In my five months there, I felt so welcomed and learned so much from my host family. I knew when I left in May of 2015 that I would definitely be back.


What inspired you to participate in an ISA Service-Learning program?

I was introduced to the program through a professor in the Modern Foreign Language Department who knew I needed some more Spanish courses. After learning about the opportunity, I realized that it was the perfect way to return to an amazing place and give back to the community that had already given me so much.

What was a typical day like at your community partner organization?

Collaborating with the museum meant I was there from 8am to 5pm throughout the week.  My average day, despite being long, was really fun and included organizing exhibit information, putting up and tearing down specific exhibits, photographing artifacts, and learning about the history of the museum.


Reflecting on your global service-learning experience, what lessons did you take with you?

I learned that you cannot go into a service opportunity expecting to make all of these big changes or become the number one volunteer, it is not important. What does matter is opening yourself up to new things, letting yourself experience life a different way, and, most importantly, learning from the community!

What’s your favorite story from your time in Costa Rica that you find yourself telling over and over again?

I always find myself telling people about how I ended up in the hospital with a stomach bug.  Even though I was sick, the whole experience was wonderful, from the ISA team members who went with me and stayed with me while I was waiting for my diagnosis, to the friendly nurses and doctors.  People are shocked to hear the ISA team stayed with me that whole night! I would do the whole program again, despite the incident!

What is the number one piece of advice participants must know before going on a service-learning program?

Do not go in expecting to solve all of the problems you find or fix what you perceive as broken. You will be amazed at what you can learn when you focus on serving the community and learning from them!


If you would like to learn more about ISA Service-Learning, fill out the form below and we’ll reach out to you!

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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