Winter Global Service in Costa Rica
When sophomore Sarah Wascisin signed up for the Office of Service Learning’s global service winter break trip to Costa Rica trip, she had no idea what she was getting herself into.
She had no idea how rewarding the work would be, and no idea that it would affect her so much that she would be drawn to return on next year’s trip as a student assistant.
Her first time leaving the US was no walk in the park, however. The students started off each day with three hours of beach cleanup, sifting through sand to rid it of microplastics and other litter. They scoured the beaches in 90-degree weather in service to the surrounding community of Montezuma.
This exhausting work was, surprisingly, Wascisin’s favorite part of the trip. “The service made me feel like I can do good in the world,” she said. “The beach cleanups were really rewarding. Never in my life have I thought, ‘I just did something really good and I deserve to be this tired for it. I deserve this nap!’”
One of the most biodiverse countries in the world, Costa Rica was a natural draw for Sarah, who is a Fisheries and Wildlife major at MU.
Experiencing such environmental diversity was an important tool in changing the student’s perspective. “It changed me for the better. Ecologically, I think about what I do now,” she said. “The amount of consumerism we do as humans was really eye-opening. We use so much stuff and don’t have anywhere to put it.”
The service trip partners with Asociación de Voluntarios para el Servicio en Áreas Protegidas de Costa Rica, or ASVO, to assist with turtle hatching and conservation. This year, El Niño affected sand temperatures, slowing down the turtles on their journey to the sea and leaving many of them to die in the sun. The volunteers’ work was as important as ever.
Excavating ten nests, they were able to save 38 turtles from dying in the extreme sand temperatures before heading back to Columbia.
The service didn’t stop then, though, as the Office of Service Learning maintains a year-round presence supporting the community of Montezuma.
As for Wascisin, she’s heading back to Costa Rica next winter break to continue her service as a student assistant. “It was the best experience of my life so far,” she said through a grin. “I can’t wait to go back.”