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Costa Rica Part 1 - Expectations vs. Reality

Updated: Jan 4, 2022

November 24, 2019

You think it will be glorious. You think it will be the most fulfilling experience of your life. You think it will make you come home and be better. You think it will make you stand out. You think it will make you special. The hard truth about serving abroad, especially in an underserved area is that it angers you. At least, that’s what happened to me. During June of 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and provide healthcare to different communities with other Clemson students and local doctors. I was able to do house visits, help conduct a health census, treat patients in a clinic, and visit some cool landmarks around Costa Rica. If I had to describe volunteering abroad, I would say that it is the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done.

You may ask, why was it the best thing I’ve ever done? I was able to show the people of Costa Rica that their circumstances do not define them. I was able to treat them as patients and help them feel better, but I was also able to treat them as humans. I was able to walk into their homes, sit on their couches, and use my broken Spanish to ask them about their life – most people don’t travel to these off the beaten path places just for them. I was able to envision myself as a doctor in the future. From taking blood pressures, trying to get a toddler to stand on the scale, or working with the doctor to determine a diagnosis for a difficult case, I loved the thrill of it all.

However, it was also the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Having to turn away a patient with alcoholism because she couldn’t take medicine and drink at the same time. Having to watch the fear on someone’s face as we sent their family member to the hospital. Having to refer someone to the doctor because their illness is too difficult for us to treat but knowing they don’t have health insurance and may never be seen. Having to leave and come back to my air-conditioned home and go back to Clemson and enjoy life knowing there is still so much need there.

The hardest thing for me has been my desire to return. I get frustrated sometimes because I know I could be doing more, helping more. I get frustrated when I complain about something which is minor in comparison to others’ struggles. Serving abroad is extremely expensive, so I don’t know when I will return, but I do know that I serve a God who has put serving on my heart. For that reason, I have to trust that he will provide.

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