A Day in the Life

By: Elizabeth McDonald

20 Nov- Today, I got up around 6, got dressed and had a typical breakfast of gallo pinto, scrambled eggs, pineapple and toast. I walked the 25 minutes to the gym and proceeded to do cardio for half an hour. I showered and got ready at the gym and then walked to school, which only takes about 15 minutes. It’s almost always very sunny, hot and humid on the walk so, as usual, I show up at ICADS, drenched in sweat. Today was the day of our Spanish final, so for the brief minutes before class starts, I eat the remaining of my pineapple from breakfast and help some others prepare for their test. At 9, the bell rings, signaling the start of class. My class of Marta, Lyn, Marin and Gustavo (our teacher) make our way to the garden and shortly after began our exam. I would say the test was fair, covering exactly what we had covered the past 5 weeks. After the exam, we had a quick meeting with Roxanna (our activities coordinator at ICADS) about the options of activities at Arenal this coming weekend. As usual, we had 2 hours for lunch so Laurie, Gabe and I decided to go to an Italian restaurant 5 minutes away. The food was delicious and we spent the rest of our time there finishing homework for our class that afternoon. Our society and culture class started at 2 and for the first half, we sat in a circle and discussed the readings and our interviews from the other day. We had a 20 minute break, where we all had the chance to get something to eat or drink. For the second half, we watched a very moving documentary about Nicaraguans in Costa Rica. After class ended, it was raining as we all made our way home. I took the bus which only costs about ₡340 and takes about 10 minutes, if there’s not too much traffic. When I got home around 5:30, I was greeted by my host mom, Elizabeth and her husband, Ronald. We ate a typical dinner of chicken, vegetables, rice and, of course, plantains. I chatted with my host family for a bit as one of their favorite game shows “El Combate” played in the background. After dinner, I took a taxi to the gym so I could do “leg day” with Gabe and Laurie. We went to a restaurant nearby after our workout and I got tres leches, which was delicious. I walked home and quickly packed for the weekend, before falling into bed. I let the soothing rain and calming orange streetlight outside by window lull me to sleep. Just another day in the life.


One Week Left

By: Jill Salvucci

It feels like just yesterday I was hugging my family goodbye right before getting on a plane to Denver, Colorado. About to meet fifteen strangers who probably had no idea I was even part of their cohort until I showed up in an Elon tshirt at the designated meeting spot. I had no idea what it was I was getting myself into. All I knew was I was going to be spending the next month in the wilderness. I never thought that the day would come where I would be exiting the Wind River Range. However, here I am with NOLS and service completed and one week left of Costa Rica.

The time has gone by faster than anything I can think of. From day one I never thought I would make it to where I am right now, sometimes I have to slap myself because I think I am dreaming. We as a group have accomplished so much and to think that there is only one week left of our
gap experience is a serial thought. We have all changed in great ways and I am very excited to take what it is I have learned to Elon (but after a much needed month long break of course). This last week is going to fly by and it’s going to be so weird to say goodbye.

I don’t exactly know what is going to happen next after gap, except heading to campus, but I have no doubt that whatever it is I am going to make the most of it. That is what the gap experience is all about making the most of what is in front of you. ¡Pura Vida!

Feliz Navidad

By: Jack Kapes

After the bus dropped us off at ICADs and I bean to walk home, I sighed. It had been a long day. Some others and I had headed out to the pool that morning and got soaked. It’s not only the pool that got us wet but the rain did as well. It rained nearly every moment of our weekend trip to the volcano. Anyway, after the 3-4 hour bus ride home I was beat. Once I arrived at the bus stop outside of Fidelitas Universidad I plopped down upon the bench and waited. The street was quieter this evening and of the busses I saw, most were near empty. I was optimistic, maybe the ride home tonight would be low key and I’d be able to get home quicker. But once the bus arrived I couldn’t help but slouch over. The bus was packed and we had to stop at every stop before mine. I got off I slugged back to my home, fiddled with the gate and spent nearly a minute trying to open the front door. After getting the door open, I leaned against the door and closed my eyes. As the door swung open, the sounds of the television came upon be and I heard bells jingling. I opened my eyes and was taken aback. The house had Christmas decorations scattered throughout the entire place and the furniture had been moved about. Where the television once sat now stands the christmas tree, packed with decorations, flashing lights and the kitchen now had holiday themed place mates and seating pads. As I stepped into the room my mother came over and muttered “pobrecito” and put her arms around me. She took my backpack and led me to the kitchen. There I ate some rice, beans and tomatoes while we talked about the weekend and watched the Wolverine on fox. The decorations continued throughout my house and there are even some in my room and the bathroom too. To be honest, during the weekend trips I get a bit home sick, not of my family back in the states but for my family in San Jose. Well, it’s good to be back home, back in my freshly made bed and back with my family.

Picture from my place

(Sorry about the Christmas tree, It’s usually lit up)



Mis Hermanos

By: Marta Djalleta

Growing up with a big sister and being one of the youngest out of my cousins, I was never around little kids that much. I’ve had a couple babysitting jobs here and there, but young hyperactive children are not normally my cup of tea. As appealing as a non tax-deductible income sounds, I often find myself offering my babysitting jobs to friends. This is all in the best interest of the family as I am honestly much more inclined to turn on a movie, than to come up with creative activities to keep the kids busy.

Coming to Costa Rica, I didn’t know how I would feel about having two little brothers. However, contrary to my past, I have never met cooler kids. Javi, 13, and Fabi, 9, have easily become the best little Ticos that I have met in Costa Rica. On most days when I come home from school, Fabi and I watch TV together, which often leads to us laughing over bad Disney Channel humor. While watching TV, Fabi loves to bring out his plethora of board games for us to play together. This past Thursday, we played one of his favorites, Uno, as well as a new favorite that I taught him, war, or guerra, in Spanish. No matter the game, it gets very competitive, and some turn to cheating, never me of course. However, we kept our common ground over our mutual love for the song Animals by Maroon 5 and listened to it during our game to keep us calm. Javi and I spend the most time together when I help him with his English homework, which ends up turning into us giggling at each other’s mispronunciation of words in our non-native languages, as well as my cluelessness of fancy grammatical English terms.

Whether it’s TV, board games, or homework help, it has been an unexpected pleasure to have two hyperactive little brothers, and I can’t imagine my Costa Rican experience to be half as enjoyable without them.

*Pictured below is Fabi during our intense game session this past Thursday :)*


Above Anything Else Gap Makes Me Happy        

By: Eliza Upton


I’m in total shock by the fact that it was well over three months ago that I was writing my first blog post in a little tent in the middle of Wyoming and now I’m sitting on an actual bed in Costa Rica writing one of my last. Somehow the end of Gap is coming very soon and I’m still trying to figure out how to cope with that fact. So I thought I might try by reflecting on my favorite part of Gap: how much joy it brings me.

So in no particular order here are ten moments that were made up of a few giggles and pure Gap happiness:

Anthonys tent setup:

More of a “had to be there moment” but after an already dysfunctional and funny day during NOLS, Anthony proudly revealed to our ISGE group the tent he had tirelessly worked on to set up by himself. All good intentions were there, but the sight of that Charlie Brown Christmas tree tent had me on the ground struggling to breath and crying from laughter.

Our Saturday night in Mullens:

It was a night full of spinach puffs, line dancing, slow dances with our friend Allen, and unidentifiable sandwiches. It was perfect.

The cloud to end us all:

On our first night of ISGE the whole gang got together to share a campsite. While eating dinner we noticed a huge cloud and storm coming our way. My cook group kind of went into hysteria. Weather Lady Larry was yelling out predictions, Lyn and I were rapidly trying to storm proof everything, and Andrew was watching us lose our minds over this cloud. The jokes and hysteria continued until we watched the cloud completely avoid us. Then we sat a little defeated by the lack of apocalypse, ate yellow cake, and laughed for about ten minutes.

Jacks parting words to the Re-member crew:

Inspiring and a tad inappropriate.

Bus/Van ride jams:

While most of the time we’re all either sleeping or listening to our own headphones, the best moments come when the headphones come out and we can find something to sing along too. Whether it was in Yellowstone, St. Louis, or driving back from a Volcano in Costa Rica making our own music.

Our afternoon with Roxana going to churches:

After driving an hour and a half to accidentally crash a funeral in Costa Rica, we sat on the bus laughing and trying to figure out what our education had come to.

Swimming in Cahuita:

Hitting the beaches of the Caribbean Sea was pretty wonderful. The warm sea water brought body surfing, the discovery that Lyn doesn’t really know how to swim, the telling of many truths, and Marta’s knack for finding glasses.

When Elizabeth Coder didnt make us get out of the van at Yellowstone:

After a day full of loading and unloading those vans all over the national park Rex brought us to another picture stop. As much as we love Rex and seeing Yellowstone, we were all exhausted from a month of our own sight seeing and couldn’t take another group picture in front of a waterfall. It was at that moment that Elizabeth said, “You guys don’t have to get out of this van. I’m not going to.” I think that’s when I first knew I loved her and that Gap was a going to be great with her honesty leading the way.

Double Stuffed Oreos:

Even though we joke about how much money we wasted on buying cookies and milk, let’s be honest, that got us through service. Through the plague, the constant communication confusion of Mullens, long and cramped van rides, and our little storming, those double stuffed moments kept us all together and happy.

Rescue Squads:

The whole “rescue squad” thing started when the hiking group I was in got lost one day, and we had to set up camp away from the rest of the crew. The other two groups, who were at the planned destination spot, put together a morning “rescue squad” to go find us where they thought we may be, tired and dehydrated. All love was there and a few people got very excited by the idea of a rescue mission, but in the end they were not very successful. My group found our way to the camp on our own, and we had to send Brandon out to rescue the rescue squad. Since then we’ve had a few more rescue squads, whether they were to rescue a bear fence or just wake up a gapper who overslept in Costa Rica. I can’t help but laugh every time those two words are said in the typical low voice that fashions the phrase because a lot of our rescue squads have been failed attempts, but they always come from a place of love.

By: Lyn Nelson

Yesterday I was faced with a drizzle when I forgot to bring my umbrella along with me on my 30 minute walk home from ICADS. The cold rain drops hitting me in the face, and damping my hair reminded me of the slight drizzle I felt as I disembarked the NOLS school bus into the abyss of the Wind River Range just four months ago. I couldn’t help but remember seeing Anthony’s face when he realized he had forgotten to pack a rain jacket and knew he was going to have to use a trash bag for the entire trip.

As the time we have together as a cohort dwindles, it’s become a commonality that during break time, or a group dinner, someone will bring up a story from our previous experiences such as “oh remember the time Anthony forgot his rain jacket during NOLS?” And we’ll spend the rest of the time laughing and reflecting on that experience.  As much as we try to explain our stories to other people, these are experiences that only our cohort will truly understand. Reflecting on our “common ground” developed over the past several months has allowed the bond of our cohort to strengthen.

These are the moments (when we are all gathered together sharing stories) that remind me that although at times living with 14 people is certainly a challenge, every single part of our Gap Semester has allowed me to form unbreakable bonds with 14 incredible people, and that I would not change the experiences I’ve shared with these people for the world. I’m very thankful that our time spent together has allowed us to reflect upon our previous journeys because there are many stories that are never going to be worth forgetting.

As I laid in bed the other night thinking about all of the times Gap 2015 has shared together, I realized how sad it made me that I could count the days left when have in our gap semester on my 10 fingers. As much as I look forward to sleeping in my own bed, I know how much I’m going to miss this 14 other people when I am back home- so as a positive outlook on the limited time left we have together- I know that my Gap friends are going to help make this last week in Costa Rica is going to be one of the most memorable and important times of my life.


By: Krisandra Provencher

Nearly a year ago today I listed to a voicemail from an unknown number. I heard a male voice say congratulations. Then there was screaming and cheering in the background before I heard the voice say a few more things. When the call ended and I processed what I had just heard, a scream flew out of my mouth. I had done it. I was a member of Elon University’s Class of 2019 Gap Semester Program. I had sent in my application roughly a month before and wasn’t expecting to hear from them so soon, if at all. I was most certainly in shock. I ran into the living room and told my mom the news in a rushed and loud voice. She looked at me with concern on her face and asked me to slow down and repeat myself. But, by the time I had sunk to the floor and was impersonating a blubbering fish while I cried. It was the oddest two minutes of my life. I went through the whole spectrum of human emotion. I was hysterical, sad, scared, excited, shocked, thrilled, proud and utterly happy all at the same time. I couldn’t believe it. I had to listen to the message again, and again, and again. Sure enough it said the same thing each time I listened to it. I was a member of GAP. The following August me and 14 other students from across the country would set out on a three month adventure. Our lives would be constantly evolving and we would have to constantly adapt right alongside it. I quickly called my family, texted my friends and emailed my teachers. I even updated my Facebook status to let the world know of my excitement.

Now, a week from finishing the semester I’ve finally begun to process what the last few months of my life have looked like. I spent a month backpacking through the Wind River Range in Wyoming, I did a variety of service-learning projects in multiple states for 5 weeks, I have spent almost 6 weeks living with a host family and learning Spanish in Costa Rica, and I have met 14 incredible people who have become some of my best friends and biggest supporters. When I applied to GAP I focused on the adventures, the hands-on learning and the fact that I’d get to travel and see a lot of the U.S. and even another country. But, the funny thing is that I never really thought about the other students I’d get to meet. The fact that for three months I would spend nearly every single day with the same people. I didn’t think of the amazing bonds we would form, the laughter we would share or the deeply philosophical conversations we’d have about life and the future. I didn’t have a clue as to how great of an impact the Gap cohort would have on my life.

It’s been hard to process what the end of our semester really means. We’ve seen Elizabeth interviewing students applying for next year’s program. We’ve signed up for classes and picked where we want to live in campus. We’ve chosen meal plans and talked about what the transition would be like. But to actually experience the end of such an indescribable journey with such wonderful people, how do you process that? After months of creating inside jokes, sharing coffees, movie nights and singing pop songs in the vans our semester is going to end. People are going to go home and see their families, they’re going to celebrate the holidays and then in January start classes on campus and meet their roommates and the people on their floors. Our lives are going to change once again. Though I never realized how close I would really get to my fellow Gappers, there is no doubt in my mind now. When people ask me what I am going to miss the most about this semester or what my favorite part was, my answer will always be the people, my Gap family.

When It Hits You

By: Andrew Novinski

You know the feeling you get when you finally realize something and it hits you like a tank? It puts you in this state of denial or disbelief. How can it be that we only have one week left in this incredible experience abroad?

The other night I was talking with my friends in their hotel room and we were reminiscing on past experiences over the last 4 months. I refused to think that the semester was almost at its end.  We were getting ready to go out to dinner and I heard someone say, “Hey, can I get a time extension”? Everyone laughed. A time extension was something we used during NOLS when we needed about 10 more minutes to get ready and packed up in the morning.

I woke up the next morning like it was any other day here in Costa Rica. We were loading the bus getting ready to leave the hotel and I sat down in my seat, when I heard someone mention how we only have one week left in our journey. It really hit me right then.  There have been times I have been ready to go home to my family, but the other part about the end is that everyone in the Gap group will start to live separate lives when we get back to campus. Sure we will stay in touch and have a class together, but it is still a weird thought not being with these people any longer. It’s a weird way to end. We are all in an airport and leave one by one to go back home. That’s it.

One of my favorite things to do is think of all of us in the airport on the first day and just looking at everyone going, “Alright spending the next 4 months with these guys.” I love looking back at each person and seeing how they have changed and how friendships were made and how they changed as the semester went on. It’s also important to notice how they have changed you, because I look back on it now and I can easily say I am not the same person that got off the plane in Denver.

Now I got one week left with some pretty amazing people and I am going to cherish each moment remaining. Home is close but I am not done here yet!

New People I’ve Met in Costa Rica This Week

By: Laurie Heggedal

  1. Elise, the doctor that I went to see last Monday when I fainted and from whom I learned the differences between Costa Rican and American common medicinal practices.
  1. Andrea, a friend of my host family who stayed with us for a few days to help with the installation of new flooring.
  1. A Nicaraguan family that Marta, Jack, and I interviewed for our Society and Culture class, which focuses on the migration of Nicaraguans and the relationship between them and Costa Ricans.
  1. Christina, a worker at McDonald’s who chats with Gabe and I when we go there to utilize the free WiFi to do our homework. She is probably the peppiest McDonald’s worker I have ever met!
  1. Francisco, the guide that Anthony and Elizabeth and I had while horseback riding near Volcano Arenal who told me about growing up in La Fortuna and the tourist business that he grew up with. The two of us are now friends on Facebook.




Breaking the Shell

By: Nathan Hunnicutt

The flames red, yellow, orange, turning wood into fuel for the fire.

Crackle and burn goes the beans of white.

Slowly churning in the iron caldron, they change from white to black,

Toasting over time.


Chip, chip, chipping away at the black shell that consumed the bean, we worked.

Some shattered, some broke, some came out whole.

All became a golden brown bean, bitter-sweet tasting.

One by one were dropped, rolled crushed, flattened, minced into glorified powder.


Warmed milk, sugar, and the glorified powder,

It is chocolate.