Time is an interesting thing. It seems to move as slowly as a trickle, but weeks, months, even years can go by in merely an instant and you’re left wondering, “Where did it all go?”

That was how my summer went.

And even more than usual, I wish it could’ve lasted longer because I spent two of the fastest—and most wonderful—months of life in Costa Rica.

Earlier in the year I applied for one of the two $2,500 scholarships the Mudd Nick Foundation was offering in order to send two high school students on an exchange program to Costa Rica. My good friend Jamey Sherman and I both received the scholarships and were both accepted into the Partners of the Americas exchange program. We are both immensely grateful to the Mudd Nick Foundation for giving us such a wonderful opportunity—it truly was a life changing experience.

During my stay in Costa Rica, I went to school, got to visit a smattering of tourist attractions, and enjoyed a variety of typical Costa Rican food, but my favorite part of the time I spent there was witnessing the incredible kindness of the people I encountered. I lived with two families, each for one month, and both were some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. I was welcomed as part of the family with open arms from day one. Although my family here at home may not appreciate me saying this, here is the truth: I will now and forever have three families to call my own—in total, I have six mothers and fathers, seven brothers, five sisters, and countless cousins.

With help from my families, I improved my Spanish speaking capabilities and learned a lot about Costa Rican culture. But I also made surprising discoveries about myself. I went into the exchange a relatively reserved person, and emerged more confident. I’m more independent, more willing to take risks, and, perhaps most importantly, more empowered than I’ve ever been. I guess that’s what traveling to a foreign country does.

It was truly the summer of a lifetime.


Alaina Holm