Monteverde, Costa Rica has always represented a place of healing and transformation for me. The fresh mountain air rejuvenates and the simplicity of life here removes the common stressors found in the American lifestyle. After my dad died tragically when I was young, my mom brought my family to Costa Rica to live for a year in order to experience a different way of life as a jumping off point for personal and familial growth and redefinition. I was the only blonde kid in the local school, I didn’t speak the language, and I surely was not accustomed to being the minority. However, through this difference I developed a strong sense of self and a deep empathy for the people and world around me. We have continued to visit and love Costa Rica as our second home since this transformational year (around 8 years ago). Although Costa Rica has always been an attractive place to travel to, I recently have discovered Costa Rica’s vast academic connections surrounding issues of health, wellness, community, and politics with my own personal studies and interests.
Last fall, I decided to embark on the journey of writing a Health and Societies senior honors thesis. Through this process, I decided to take advantage of my personal connection to Costa Rica as an opportunity to conduct ethnographic research on the experience of childbirth and maternal care for migrants in Costa Rica through semi-structured interviews and participant observation. I am fascinated by the experience of care for “the other” in a country that boasts inclusion, peace, and that supports a universal healthcare system. Alongside this research, I had hopes to work in the field of global health as a means of interweaving myself into the community that I would be studying, while also gaining experience in the field I would like to eventually go into.
I sought out a summer internship at The Monteverde Institute in order to compliment and accompany my original honors thesis research that I will be conducting here in Costa Rica. Specifically, I applied to be a research assistant in the Institute’s Community Health Program Initiative. The opportunity presented itself rapidly, and I applied for this grant at the very last minute! As I filled out the application, I became extremely excited and motivated to create a highly integrative summer for myself- with complimenting research and professional responsibilities. I knew that associating myself with the Monteverde Institute would provide me ample resources and rapport within the community. The personal statements in the application process especially provoked deep contemplation about why I was hoping to get this internship, and more specifically, why I felt such a strong draw to this special country. One of the challenges was getting all the information from the host organization during such a short time frame!
When I received the acceptance email, I was absolutely speechless. I was sitting in the middle of one of my classes when I opened the email, and I immediately went on to read it probably 5 times! I then forwarded the email to my mom with a, “LOOK MOM! I GOT IT! I’m so happy.” After receiving the acceptance, I contacted the Institute and started to coordinate dates and plans for the summer. In preparation for this summer, I needed to figure out a place to live, when I would arrive and leave, and I needed to do some last minute shopping for some rain gear, as the heavy rains begin in Monteverde during the middle of May!
As I boarded the plane to Costa Rica, I remember feeling butterflies in my stomach. I just knew I was on the brink of huge transitions and grand leaps in my academic and personal endeavors. It is an interesting feeling to anticipate big things on the horizon. It continues to fill me with joy and gratitude for the opportunity to make Monteverde my home once again this summer. I have no doubt that the integration of many important facets of my life will provide me with great satisfaction, personal growth, and ultimately, immense joy.
-Isabel Griffith The Monteverde Institute, Costa Rica