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This week, Verto Costa Rica student Mariana Steiner shares her reflections on her 2 semesters traveling with Verto, how it feels to be wrapping up her time abroad, the challenges she’s faced, and what she’s learned. 

*** This is an example of a student’s experience from Fall 2021. Specific programming and activities are subject to change semester by semester.

There’s something particularly interesting about endings.

I’ve always been told everything must come to an end, but it never truly hits until the end is right around the corner and you’re counting down your last nights in your dorm instead of counting down the days to go home. Endings have a way of bringing out all the beauty you had overlooked. The cracked pavement that you used to curse out every morning turns into a nostalgic mark that you’ll miss. The mundane daily rice and beans that you now beg your mom to have ready on the dinner table when you get home from the airport. So many things that were once challenges have become highlights of your moments, wherever they may be as they show the growth you have made. This is my current reality as I reflect on my time with Verto Education coming to an end. 

To fully grasp the heaviness of the emotions and feelings behind leaving Verto Education, I feel compelled to bring you back to the very beginning of my college experience with the program. I committed to Verto on a wim, at the very last minute after months of feeling lost and confused as I tried to decide on a 4-year college to commit to. In the midst of the pandemic after having lost all hope in my future, Verto found its way to me (through an instagram ad) and it was love at first sight. I was immediately mesmerized by the idea of traveling right after high school while still earning college credits; it seemed too good to be true. As the time got closer for me to embark on my new journey to Hawaii in the fall of 2020, the nerves and excitement began to build up. However, due to the pandemic, a last-minute decision was made to postpone travel plans until the Spring 2021 semester and do the fall semester online. I still remember my initial reaction to the announcement, slamming my door and sobbing into my pillow, dramatic I know. But as I began my online classes with Verto, my mindset drifted from feeling like my life was cursed to seeing challenges as opportunities for growth. And soon, I came to learn that this would become a common theme with Verto Education.

After the online semester had wrapped up, it was finally time for class on white sandy beaches while sipping on coconuts, or at least that’s what I thought I would be doing when I studied in Hawaii. However, these unrealistic expectations of pure bliss were not quite met. While I was taking classes with the blue breezy background of the Pacific ocean, that didn’t mean my time on the islands didn’t have its challenges. One distinct obstacle that I was well as all my peers faced in Hawaii was adjusting to a new lifestyle of constant movement and activity. After having been stuck at home for a year due to COVID-19, the constant action had us overstimulated for the first couple of months. While in the moment we all saw it as a challenge to balance travel while doing college-level school work and exploring a new culture, looking back I am able to see the growth it brought.

Now, I am hardly in the same location for more than a few months and have a newfound passion for constant travel. Seeing so much of the Hawaiian islands in such little time taught me how to maximize traveling to see and learn as much as possible. The way I adapted to the new lifestyle also led to me learning a new skill of flexibility and adaptability. I used to have heavy anxiety when things would not go as planned. However, while I am still growing in my practice of adaptability, I now find myself to be a lot more “go-with-the-flow” and accept things as they happen. 

Following my semester in Hawaii, I received an invitation to travel to Costa Rica with Verto as a part of the new Pura Vida program. This was the first time Verto would ever be running this program, so I prepared myself to put my new skills of adaptability and flexibility to the test.

Right as I arrived in Turrialba, Costa Rica I was met with challenges such as not knowing who I would be rooming with or not knowing where or when my classes would be until the first day of school. Students running around trying to find their classes, language barriers causing people to order a taxi to the wrong place; a lot was happening all at once. Initially, the stress of this transition infiltrated my efforts to maintain calm. With a homesick breakdown here and there I was beginning to feel lost in a way. However, as I adjusted to my new environments and began to create connections with people around me, I began to feel more comfortable and calm.

Instead of shutting down in my room at every obstacle thrown my way, I accepted it and asked myself “How can I grow from this?” I adopted this new attitude towards every circumstance and have learned to live and love a special quote that I was told during my time with Verto that says “You are a river, not a rock. Practice adaptability, flow.” Practicing this mindset slowly led to personal growth and ultimately made my experience in Costa Rica an incredible and unforgettable one.

As I reflect on my time with Verto, I notice how much has happened. The countless people I have met, cultures I have explored and memories I have made will forever hold an impact in transforming me into the person I am today.

Being with Verto has equipped me with the skills and strengths I need to navigate through the challenges life throws at me. I feel a newfound sense of excitement to explore the world and continue constantly moving. Being adaptable to whatever life throws at me and growing from every opportunity I am given will also help me in my future endeavors.

So while many things presented themselves as challenges at first, I now look back at them as fond memories that have led me to become the person I am today.