Discovering My Path 

Discovering My Path 

Mary Horton

Costa Rica | Intro to Community Service 2018

NC State University Class of 2023 | Majoring in Elementary Education with a minor of Teaching English as a Foreign Language

All photos have been provided by Mary. Read her story below!

Rustic Pathways was something I was always interested in ever since hearing about it through a friend. I knew it was something I wanted to experience, but I also knew how I’d have to convince my parents to let me go out of the country by myself. I remember writing a letter to my parents begging them to let me go on a Rustic Pathways trip the summer before my senior year of high school. I posted the letter all throughout my house where I knew they would see it, on the fridge, in the office, in the bathroom, etc. I calculated what the whole trip would cost, what country was the most affordable, and which program would be the most beneficial for me, and I included it all in the letter. After much time, thought, and convincing, my parents agreed, and I finally signed up to go on the Intro to Community Service program in Costa Rica!

I was so excited to go out of the country by myself because I knew it would be an experience of a lifetime and something that would greatly impact my maturity and confidence. I loved the thought of going to a country I had never been to before with a group of strangers, and learning more about its culture while also giving back to their community. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but I felt like going on this trip was something I needed to do in high school and something that I was called to do. I knew this trip would be so much fun as well as very beneficial, but I just knew there was something more and I was counting down the days until it was finally there.

While my group and I were in Costa Rica we did a lot of community service, but my favorite day was when we volunteered at a local elementary school. I remember while we were at the school there was a great language barrier between us and the students, but we still were able to communicate with them through signals, games, and with the very little Spanish knowledge that we had. Although we had some challenges, this was the day that stood out to me and impacted my future the most because it was when I realized I wanted to not only be an elementary school teacher, but I wanted to teach abroad. This was one day out of the nine that I was there that changed everything for me. Being at that elementary school, and surrounded by those students made me feel so happy and I felt like that was exactly where I belonged.

Rustic Pathways not only helped me with my future plans, but it helped mold me into the person that I am. It got me out of my comfort zone, it helped me learn a new language, it showed me a culture that I wasn’t familiar with, and it opened my heart for students and for community service. Rustic pathways helped me fall in love with helping others and building relationships with my neighbors no matter if we spoke the same language or if we looked alike. Rustic Pathways helped me become the person I always wanted to be, and it was by far the best experience I have ever had.

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs in Costa Rica, or view more Alumni Stories here