Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Liza Detenber

My internship: This summer I worked for a non-profit organization called Global Learning in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This program is made up of volunteers both from the host countries and from around the world. I was selected to be a leader for the Costa Rica program. So, I spent my first three weeks attending leadership training in San Jorge, Nicaragua. Here I learned the best practices in student-centered education, community organizing and leadership. I did not expect to learn so much from the children and feel so inspired by their way of life.

After the leadership training we began the program in Costa Rica. I acted as an assistant program leader for this program and I had the responsibility of planning meetings, planning events, money management, food management, keeping the pulse of the team, and acting as a liaison between the volunteers and program leaders. In addition, we taught at least three times a week at four different public schools in Guanacaste, Costa Rica for elementary school students.

What I learned: I learned that people from extremely different walks in life could break down strong barriers through honesty and open communication and form true friendships. I learned that patience and love are two of the most important qualities to give to children and students; and just people in general. I did not expect to learn so much from the children and feel so inspired by their way of life.

What I hoped to contribute: I wanted to make sure that I did not enter into a culture that I knew nothing about and try to teach children based on Western values. I wanted to make sure that I could learn a bit about the culture in which I was teaching, and teach the students in a way that would ring true to them and would truly make an impact on their lives and the public schools in general.

How I learned of this opportunity: Darlene Biddy ’10 came into my Spanish class one day to recruit volunteers for this program. She gave a three-minute description of Global Learning. I became very interested in this program and ended up emailing her after class to seek more information. Eventually I decided to apply for this program and use my Community Scholar Stipend to fund my travels.

Most surprising: I never thought that I would feel so close to everybody that I worked with. I ended up leaving feeling like I had a family. I also learned so much from the children that I was working with. Their kindness, patience, innocence, and open-mindedness inspired the way that I want to live my life. I was very surprised by the amount of independence their parents gave them, and how responsible the students became at such a young age.

How it changed my course of study: It is clear to me that I want to keep traveling and putting myself in situations that are outside of my comfort zone. I also want to immerse myself in different cultures and ways of living both inside and outside of the United States so that I continuously foster an open and curious mind about the many different cultures in the world. I believe that the way to help people is based on a multicultural practice rather than monocultural one.