Next week, GLA will open applications for our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) Scholarship, which awards two students of color full scholarships to attend a travel program in the summer of 2024. These scholarships are both income- and merit-based, taking into consideration a number of factors. You will find the application on their website here.
Hear from Analisa Delgado, one of last year's recipients, to learn more about her experience in Costa Rica, what inspired her to apply, and what's next for her.
Analisa Delgado, a high school senior from Mountain View, California, is new to travel. She left the country–and her home state–for the very first time last year, traveling to Yucatán, Mexico, to learn about Mayan Indigenous culture. She was immediately hooked.
“I discovered my love for travel and pushing myself out of my comfort zone as I learned new things. Once I had left and broadened my perspective of the world, I was hungry to see, experience, and learn everything there was out there.”
When Analisa happened upon GLA's IDEA Scholarship, she decided to apply. “It lifted the financial barrier…I valued GLA's emphasis on leadership and I knew that going into my senior year of high school, I wanted to strengthen my leadership qualities and my confidence so I would be well-prepared for college, but also the rest of my life. “
When it came to choosing a program, she didn’t have to contemplate for long: the Costa Rica: Animal Rescue & Veterinary Project boasted every component she had hoped for in an overseas experience. In addition to the language and adventure factors (“I could actually go ziplining through a forest!”), the opportunity to get hands-on in animal care held a strong appeal.
“I have always loved animals and am passionate about science. However, I had always been unsure about my future career and hadn't found that one thing that truly excited me or that I felt I was working towards,” she says.
The cohort taking a breather between animal treatments
“I frequently thought about becoming a veterinarian and it seemed like a good candidate considering I had been enjoying being a volunteer at my local animal shelter. So, this seemed like the perfect fit, as it offered opportunities to work alongside veterinarians during surgeries (yes, surgeries!), closely work with an animal rescue organization, and also explore Costa Rica,” she says. “As a Mexican American it was very exciting to think I could visit another Latin American country and further develop my Spanish speaking abilities.”
Analisa assisting during a spaying surgery
Turns out, the life of a veterinarian is not for her.
But while the blood and clear view of pet organs made her squeamish, she has no regrets about her program choice.
“I learned so much about the importance of local, accessible veterinary clinics and the complexity of ending animal homelessness. I am so glad that I discovered this very early on and I am still so glad I participated in this particular program,” she says. “I realized this as I was helping out with my very first surgery. Before attending the program, I thought that I would be shadowing veterinarians as they performed the surgeries, but on the first day of the clinic, I realized just how wrong I was. We were actively aiding them from intake to recovery, recording each patient's standard information, helping determine their dosages for anesthesia, cleaning them for incisions, taking their vitals manually throughout the surgery, and monitoring them as they awoke. It was more hands-on than I had ever expected and I was so grateful to be so involved in the process; I felt like I truly left with a deep understanding of what it was like to perform spay and neuter surgeries.”
The hands-on experience in the field is just one component of what has stuck with Analisa months after returning home. Learning about Costa Rica’s biodiversity and the steps that it is taking as a country to preserve the natural world, has also been inspiring to her.
“As we, the future generations, begin to think of solutions for our most pressing environmental issues, I believe we can look to Costa Rica and all of the incredible work it has done to reduce our impacts on the planet and preserve the life on it.”
One of the many unique creatures spotted on her program
However, the biggest impact of her experience has been embracing the “pura vida” philosophy.
“Before traveling to Costa Rica, I had known that pura vida was a phrase common throughout the culture, but I didn't realize just how much weight it carries in the lives of Costa Ricans,” she says.
“People say ‘pura vida’ as a salutation, in place of ‘you're welcome’, or whenever they want to wish you well. But it is more than just a phase, it is a lifestyle of truly living life to its fullest. It is choosing joy and staying positive, it is being kind and serving others, it is being friendly and laughing as loud as you can, it is taking risks and caring for the environment, it is expressing gratitude and dancing to music.”
At its core, ‘pura vida’ is about unapologetically being yourself and living a happy life you are proud of and that is spent loving everything around you. I saw this especially in our kind and wonderful leader, Adrián. I truly believe Costa Rica has changed my life and the way I perceive it. I certainly left feeling empowered about the authority I have over my life to ensure it is genuine and joyful.”
Enjoying one of many incredible Costa Rican sunsets
So what is in store for Analisa?
“After this trip, I decided that I wanted to be a lifelong volunteer, whether it is still for animal shelters or something else,” she says. “In working at the animal rescue center, I understood just how crucial of a role volunteers have in running organizations with missions that truly make a difference in a community. If there were no volunteers at the center, nobody would maintain the hundreds of dogs staying there. Nobody would keep their spaces clean, feed them, walk them, or love them. Volunteer work and service to my community are now priorities of mine even as I prepare to leave high school.
Analisa has a few words of advice for students considering a service learning adventure this summer:
“Do it! It might not be what you expect, but you may just leave with something you never knew you needed. You will learn so much more about life and its diversity and you will meet people who will change your life.
Come in with an open mind and remember to have a positive mindset. YOU make the experience! Get to know the people in your group and expand that to locals too! Try to learn the language and embrace a new side of you that may emerge. Be respectful and understand your positionality, but don't forget to seek adventure and take risks!”