What I Learned On My Service And Justice Experience

What I Learned On My Service And Justice Experience

How being the "token freshman" is shaping my college experience.
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I go to college only about 45 minutes from home. If I want to see my family, I can. So, when my first fall break came around I took the opportunity to go somewhere a little farther away for a change.

During freshman orientation, I heard that Villanova has "Service and Justice Experiences" over fall break through Campus Ministry. Figuring "why not?" I applied without putting too much thought into it. I told my mom I was applying, but that my chances of being chosen weren't great so I would probably be home for break anyway.

Luckily for me, only a few weeks later I received a cryptic, gif-infested email which informed me I was selected for a SJE, and I needed to go to the first meeting to learn the location of my endeavor and to "awkwardly bond while sitting around in a circle." When I attended that first meeting, I had little clue what a huge impact this trip would have on my first semester.

Just like that, I learned I was going on an international service trip to Costa Rica - and it was only a few weeks away!

I was the only freshman in the group, and am honestly still getting use to college as a whole. However, I just sort of jumped in feet first, and definitely didn't regret that decision!

Over fall break, myself and fourteen others ventured to Mastatal, Costa Rica in partnership with Ecoteach, an organization which provides students with hands-on conservation opportunities in the rainforest. We lived on a sustainable ranch called Rancho Mastatal, where we were able to learn about permaculture, natural building, fermentation and other practices integral to a sustainable lifestyle.

The bounty of knowledge and experiences I gained in just one week was incredible. The most impactful facet of the entire endeavor, however, was definitely the people.

There we several different groups of people I got to know throughout the experience, and each gave me a little more perspective into myself.

First, were the people of the ranch. Rancho Mastatal hosts a number of people from all over the world each year who wish to gain insight into what it means to live a permaculture lifestyle - one in which land and people coexist in a mutually-beneficial relationship. Some stay for a year, some for three months, and others dedicate their lives to this project. In doing so, they bestow a wealth of knowledge in each and every person who comes to volunteer. Each night before dinner, they all join hands and give thanks for each success of the day. These people are not indulgent, but rather endlessly give to their environment, yet they still take time each and every day to be thankful for the positives.

The people of Mastatal had much to teach as well. Mastatal is a small rural community in Costa Rica, just seven miles from the Pacific Coast. With only about a hundred and fifty inhabitants, the people of Mastatal have an extremely close bond, both with their environment and one another.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay with a host family for two days of my trip, getting an opportunity to practice my nonexistent Spanish skills and to immerse myself in the rich culture. The people of the community had a lot to teach, for I found they were content with everything they had and didn't need much to be happy.

At one point, our guides Marcos and Jenny were asked where their dream home would be, and they stated that they already live in it - a mindset that greatly reflects the people of the region.

Finally, the other Villanovans with whom I embarked on this journey had a lot to teach me as a well. As the only freshman, and the only person who was new to the college experience, I got a chance to glimpse the future, as well as make new friends I never would have met otherwise.

Thanks to my Service and Justice Experience, I was able to meet people who I know will continue to shape my college experience, both from near and from afar.

Cover Image Credit: Emily Scheuring

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The Trip From Hell That Became The Trip Of A Lifetime

It wasn't all smooth sailing, or should I say say flying.
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Last summer, I did one of the craziest things I might have ever done. I traveled internationally. Alone.

I had only traveled internationally once before, and that was with an exchange program group. I became so close to my host family and sister in Argentina that I was determined to go back.

To be fair, it was just the traveling part I would have to face alone because as soon as I made it to Argentina, I would be reunited with my Argentine family. But in my eyes, the journey to the destination is where the most can go awry.

Everything started out so well, so I should have seen that as a bad sign since I am known for my bad luck.

I had been planning the trip for months with the help of my family, and we were all so excited. Being the type A person that I am, I mapped out where I would be going at each time, especially because my layover in Dallas was so short. I wanted to be prepared for anything. Little did I know, I was not prepared for this.

My parents brought me to the airport in my hometown, we said our goodbyes, and I made it to my gate with no issues. I even got on the plane a little early, so it was looking like I would have plenty of time to get to my second flight in Dallas.

But then we kept sitting there, for an hour, with no air conditioning (in July).

It was safe to say there were no happy travelers on the plane that day. I still stayed hopeful that maybe my plane in Dallas would wait just a little longer for me, but when I finally got to Dallas and checked the status of the flight, my heart sunk as I realized it had already left.

I began texting and calling everyone to update them on the situation, and they all reassured me that it would not be a problem to get on the next flight. I agreed with them until I could not find someone from the airline to listen to me.

When you are an 18-year-old girl who is alone, people typically aren’t jumping to help you, especially when you are starting to cry after waiting in a line for over an hour.

After a couple of meltdowns, I finally got to talk to an agent who told me the next flight was not until 5:00 p.m., the next day.

I tried to bargain and find any flight, but when the agent began to tell me my options for hotels, I wanted to cry (again). She gave me vouchers for food and a hotel, and then I was sent off on my own to find the shuttle for the hotel I was being put in for the night.

Once I got to the hotel (that was really more of a motel) I checked in only to find out that my mom had already called to make sure I would be taken care of. I also had both families (in the U.S. and Argentina) calling the airline to complain about my situation, so I had a pretty good defensive team.

Once I finally made it to my room, I just broke down when I realized I had no extra clothes, as I was not prepared to be stuck in Texas for the night.

Since check out was at 11:00 a.m. the next morning, I had a lot of time to spend at the airport in Dallas after hopping off the second shuttle. I spent the day at the airport watching Netflix and visiting gift shops, and before I knew it, it was finally time for my flight.

I cannot explain the relief I felt when I finally got on that airplane and it took off (a little late, but no complaints here).

10 hours later, I finally made it to Argentina, where my sister and the rest of my family was ready to greet me with hugs and kisses. I probably didn’t smell the best after all the stress sweating that was happening, but I was so relieved to be done traveling that I didn’t even care.

It turned out to be the most amazing trip ever. I guess all the trouble of getting there was worth it, and the flight back was not bad either.

Now that I’ve been through all that, I have so much confidence in myself to do it again because if I can handle that crazy trip, I can take on the world.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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8 Reasons To Consider A Cruise For Your Next Vacation

Cruising is a lifestyle and more people should be a part of it.
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Cruises have been a major part of my life for as long as I could remember. My family loves going on cruises to escape the real world as it has endless options to make your trip great. A lot of people don’t understand how cruising can be such a special and amazing experience. Here are eight reasons why you should consider planning a cruise for your next vacation.

1. You travel to many different destinations in one vacation

What’s cool about cruises is that you can visit many different countries in a short span of time. Depending on how long your cruise is, you can visit up to three countries in only a week! It gives you great opportunities to explore other cultures.


2. You can eat unlimited food at any time of the day

I would be lying if I said that the food was not one of my favorite parts of the cruising experience. Most food is free and you can access it whenever you want. That means that you can quickly grab an ice cream cone at 10 a.m. or a slice of pizza at 1 a.m., which becomes a favorite habit after a few days on the ship.

3. The entertainment will keep you amazed throughout your whole trip

Between comedy shows, piano bars, and musicals, your schedule is jammed packed with amazing entertainment that everyone will enjoy. You’ll remember the talented entertainers long after your cruise and it’ll be a highlight of your trip.


4. There are countless activities for all ages


Some of my favorite activities include karaoke, BINGO, trivia, dance lessons, and more. There is always such an eclectic group of participants at these events which make them even more fun.

5. You can meet different people from all around the world


When I was younger, I loved going to the kids’ clubs and making friends. I even keep in touch with a few of them today! Now that I’m older, I love meeting people of all different ages and cultures at these events and spending my vacation with them.


6. You can explore secret places on the ship


Throughout my vacation, you can often find me aimlessly wandering around the ship with no real destination. These ships are so big that even when you’ve been exploring for a few days, you are always finding new places that they don’t advertise. These are usually the best places to relax as they are less crowded.

7. There are countless options to choose from

You can go on a four-day cruise to Bermuda or you can go on a fifteen-day cruise to Alaska! There are so many options, not only with length and destination, but with cruise lines too. Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian are among some “family-style” cruises while Celebrity and Princess usually include mostly older crowds. My personal favorite is Royal Caribbean, but every cruise line is great for different reasons.

8. The scenery and ship itself are beautiful

The amount of detail included in the ship’s architecture is simply stunning. You will notice the tiniest details day after day. In addition, you are surrounded by the ocean. One of my favorite sights of all time is from the back of the ship where you can see the foam in the ocean created from the ship moving through it. That view in itself makes cruises completely worth it.

Cover Image Credit: Victoria Dunn

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