More Than Just a Summer Trip

More Than Just a Summer Trip

By Quinn Bissetta

Soccer & Service in La Paz, Costa Rica 2013 | Mountain Air and Village Service, Dominican Republic 2014

In May 2020, Quinn graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations.  She now works in Boston in human resources.

I went on my first Rustic Pathways trip to Costa Rica when I was fourteen years old.  This was my first time traveling without family, as well as my first time out of the country.

Little did I know, this trip would be one of my most cherished memories from childhood, the topic of my college application essay, and referenced in future job interviews.

The life lessons I learned from this trip will stay with me forever.

In Costa Rica, I stayed with a host family who was kind and generous.  Despite the trip being just ten days, I will always treasure the bond I formed with my host family.

Three people (my host mother, father and brother) who I had never met before and neither spoke their language nor shared their culture, welcomed me into their home and treated me like family. I had never before experienced such blind generosity and kindness.

By staying with a host family, I was able to immerse myself in a different culture and form relationships with people who had a very different background and upbringing from myself.

In addition to the experience I had staying with my host family, the service work was incredibly meaningful. Our group painted schools, orphanages, and clinics. My favorite part of the service work was interacting with the community members. It didn’t matter to them that I wasn’t from their community, like my host family, they treated me like family.

I was fortunate to again travel with Rustic Pathways the following summer to the Dominican Republic. Our group helped build an aqueduct to bring running water to a local village. Multiple Rustic Pathways’ cohorts worked on this project throughout the summer.

To date, this is the most fulfilling project I have ever been a part of. The idea of soon having running water, something I certainly took for granted, sparked joy in the eyes of the community members. I never again complained about the hot water running out once I returned home to the U.S..

After my first Rustic Pathways trip, my Mom said I “came back a completely different kid.”  She was right. I came home with a new perspective, greater appreciation for what I have, and a curiosity to explore the world and different cultures.

These two trips gave me the opportunity to see places different from the suburban, homogeneous town I grew up in. I discovered that what I previously defined as “hardships” pale in comparison to what most people in other parts of the world experience.

Thank you to Rustic Pathways for providing me with two unforgettable and transformative experiences.

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, or view more Alumni Stories here