Relentless Curiosity & Breaking the Norm
Kelsey Bumsted, TTC Ambassador & Web Design Intern
As a twenty-one year old college student at a small liberal arts school in Western, New Hampshire, I craved a study abroad experience beyond what my school could offer me. After months of trying to persuade my parents to let me travel to the favelas of Sao Paulo, Brazil through a Public Health study abroad program with a nearby grad school, I lost the fight and ended up missing the cut-off date to submit applications for the following semester. I couldn’t let that stop me.
As a persistent (and annoying) daughter, I networked with extremely generous expats, nonprofit volunteers and hotels owners in Nicaragua who helped me develop a formal personal syllabus for studying abroad to convince my parents and school administrators that I would be continuing my education outside of school for a semester. It initially consisted of two internships with nonprofits, a homestay and classes with a language school, surfing lessons and open-ended time to find photography & marketing work with local businesses. With a terrified eye roll, my mother and father knew I couldn’t be stopped when I approached them with my plan, itinerary and official documents.
I chose Nicaragua for a variety of reasons: It’s distance was closer to Miami than Brazil was, I had seven years of Spanish language classes through middle school to college and felt comfortable with a language foundation, and I wanted to be in a country that challenged everything I knew about the world. I set personal goals for myself that pushed me to embrace an extroverted, trusting and welcoming personality. I read local newspapers for months that prepared me for political understanding. I decided that I would take every opportunity I had to try new foods, partake in unique experiences and learn from everyone I met.
The most transformative moments I experienced during my four months in Nicaragua were with a coconut company who hired me for photography, videography, social media and web design. On a minimal budget, my boss that I met by chance in a bookstore in Granada (who happened to be born and raised in the San Juan Islands of Washington State) trekked with me for 14 hours by school bus, hitchhike and covered hatchback on make-shift dirt roads across the country to the small village of Pearl Lagoon located on the far-flung Caribbean side of the country. We spent two weeks hiking through the jungle to even smaller Miskito communities documenting hand-pressed coconut oil recipes that had been passed down for generations. We slept in tents outside the candle-lit, wooden planked houses in each community we visited while the local championship baseball games broadcasted through battery powered radios through the night.
The vivid, cherished memories that came from this trip have taught me how meaningful travel is to my life. It’s hard to emotionally articulate how valuable travel is until you step out of your comfort zone to experience it for yourself. While I knew I wanted to test myself and experience something different, I didn’t know that this trip would affirm my desire to join the Peace Corps and set me up on a path to work in this field for the rest of my life.