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In June, for the third year, CIRENAS hosted Phillips Exeter Academy’s ESSO Summer Service Program. This year CIRENAS partnered with Adventures Under the Sun to deliver an experience in three distinct areas of Costa Rica: Monteverde Cloud Forest, Quebradas de Nando and the CIRENAS campus. The Quebradas de Nando families who have hosted our students for the last five years look forward to welcoming CIRENAS groups to their community and making new friendships. Admittedly, the faculty and students were most nervous about the homestay component of their trip, especially because there was a language barrier for many of the participants. Those fears quickly dissipated when students were welcomed with a typical Costa Rican meal and they shared laughs and stories while listening to marimba music. The students were able to meet many members of the community during their service project at Quebradas School that included laying a cement walkway and painting the classroom.   Other highlights of the homestay were playing soccer on the community’s field and spontaneous salsa and merengue dance lessons.

The last segment of the trip was a stay on the CIRENAS campus, where students quickly learned about off-grid living and how to be disconnected from their favorite technologies. Students teamed up to prepare all their meals and were responsible for cleaning and maintaining campus. They continued their service work with a beach clean up and tree planting on the new CIRENAS campus.

Looking back at her trip, one student named Julie said that the “aspects of local community are what I will remember the most. I learned a strangely addicting game of hitting a small piece of wood with the end a broomstick from a boy in Quebrada de Nando, devoured the mango my host dad picked off the tree for me, danced late at night with my host sisters and friends, laughed while I attempted to wrap up my tamales as nicely as my host mother, and struggled to use my limited Spanish. The trip was an unforgettable experience that I will forever be grateful for.”