Field Notes

Summer 2017 Reflections

These pieces of travel writing are reflections by students traveling all over the world with GLA.

Summer is flying by! Here's a selection of inspiring student stories from the first three weeks of summer programs, exemplifying the open-mindedness, cross-culural learning and self-discovery we celebrate at GLA. Read more reflections on the Program Blogs.


"The people here in Ghana are never too busy to exchange a friendly smile and a humble greeting."

Written by Noah Steger, Ghana: Building Healthy Villages, June 19 – July 2

"Though lacking monetary wealth, the people of Ghana are wealthy in other ways. My first experience with Ghanaians was on the plane ride to Accra. The plane was filled with people who carried US passports but bore the proud name of Ghana, and it was the most pleasant flight I have ever taken. The passengers were kind in helping me, a young solo flyer, and were enthusiastic when we landed in the beautiful country. Since landing, I have met all kinds of people, each unique in many ways but similar in their joyful, kindhearted demeanor. Walking down the street, children sing to us, “Yavv Yavv Gaibo!” and adults offer greetings of “Mia Werzo!” Our local staff have gone out of their way to make every student comfortable. Typically with a language barrier, people might be quick to give up on communication, but I have yet to meet a Ghanian who hasn't at least given me an enthusiastic wave. The people here in Ghana are never too busy to exchange a friendly smile and a humble greeting. The people of Ghana are what I will miss the most about this beautiful country."

Ghana: Building Healthy Villages | 2018 Program Info & Enrollment


"Once we arrived at the clinic, we discovered that the surroundings and our tasks were almost identical to our last medical brigade, but one thing was resoundingly different: This time, we were experienced."

Written by Shaila Fye, DR: Global Health Initiative, June 19 – July 2 (Group A)

"The alarm rang at 6 am sharp, forcing me to wake up and get out of bed. While half of me wanted to complain, the other half made me realize that the work I will be doing with the rest of my group will make every yawn worth it. Approaching the medical clinic in Cachon, the excitement from us 24 students began to build in our small bus. We didn't know whether this clinic would be similar to the previous one where we volunteered, but we all had one mindset: We are here to help others, learn their culture, educate ourselves and bond with our fellow group members.

"Once we arrived at the clinic, we discovered that the surroundings and our tasks were almost identical to our last medical brigade, but one thing was resoundingly different: This time, we were experienced. The day went by with the usual hectic nature of operating a pop-up clinic in a developing country, but I am proud to say that we survived. Through shuffling papers and struggling to understand Spanish, our team—rather, our family—grew together to support each other throughout the day. When our time was not being spent with patients, it was spent playing soccer, baseball and kickball with the children."

Dominican Republic: Global Health Initiative | 2018 Program Info & Enrollment


"There’s something very special about meeting people from all over the country; people that speak different languages, literal and figurative."

Written by Hazel Siff, Costa Rica: The Sea Turtle Initiative – June 20 – June 29

"Waking up this morning to the soft sound of rain splashing on the tropical, green foliage, I found myself feeling so much appreciation just for being here. People, including me, had been complaining about sickness and sunburns, but I had a moment of clarity. I am in a place in which I am awoken each morning by the sound of monkeys howling and toucans chirping, and that in itself is a miracle. Above all, I am appreciative of the friendships I’ve been developing. There’s something very special about meeting people from all over the country; people that speak different languages, literal and figurative. Today the plan was to go surfing, something foreign and exciting to me.

"After a breakfast of fresh fruit, we took an hour-long ride to the beach. This was no normal beach. The place could have been photoshopped. The sun shone on the crystal clear, teal water, and the sand glimmered. We split in half, loaded up on sunscreen, and made our way into the ocean. Half started on surfboards, while the others swam. I could have stayed in the water all day. Having a moment to relax amongst the waves was pure bliss."

Costa Rica: The Initiative for Children | 2018 Program Info & Enrollment


"Learning about how children cross the border from Haiti to the Dominican Republic was eye-opening."

Written by Talia Cohen, DR: Building a Sustainable World, June 26 – July 16

"After dinner we met with Marcela, a Colombian expat managing a house for misplaced children in Haiti. We learned about the practically non-existent government and public services, as well as the problems with the elevated birth rate after the 2010 earthquake. Learning about how children cross the border from Haiti to the Dominican Republic was eye-opening. Marcela’s discussion of her life experience through her work allowed many of us students to question previous beliefs on the relationship between the two nations that inhabit the island of Hispaniola."

Dominican Republic: Building a Sustainable World | 2018 Program Info & Enrollment


"Certainly none of that excitement was planned, but even so, it was the best part of the day."

Written by Lauren Ness, Bali: Land of Discovery, June 22 – July 12

"Go with the flow. When teaching kids, it’s impossible to schedule everything. That’s also the best thing about teaching kids: They create their own fun and it’s impossible to schedule. Today’s topic—animals—led to lots of exciting situations, undiscovered artists, and especially excited animal noises. With their homemade masks, our rotation of kids were nonstop giggling, 'rawr'-ing, 'meow'-ing and 'oink'-ing until Jake delivered his show-stopping rendition of a monkey that was incredibly accurate and amusing for both us and the kids. Certainly none of that excitement was planned, but even so, it was the best part of the day. You can never anticipate exactly what will happen in a classroom full of adorable, rowdy kids ready to learn. But I am thankful that we can always safely assume that we, and the kids, will have tons of fun if we simply go with the flow."

Bali: Land of Discovery | 2018 Program Info & Enrollment


"As I walked, I tried to replicate the softness of their footsteps, looking to keep the serenity and harmony of the temple."

Written by Corrina Lewis, India: Service Through the Lens, June 20 – July 10

"The perpetual honking of a car horn. That would be the main sound that fills the humid Indian air. Just like any country, industrialization has slowly engulfed the cultural traditions that once permeated throughout the physical and spiritual landscape of India. There is asylum, however, in the Hindu temples that continue to preserve sanctity, purity, and connection to the primal sense of true humanity. Inside the Hindu temple that celebrated Vishnu, walked the Babajii, men with long entangled dreads that fell along their backs and chests. Their robes fell loosely around their arms and legs, granting them the freedom to move swiftly and lightly. As I walked, I tried to replicate the softness of their footsteps, looking to keep the serenity and harmony of the temple."

India: Service Through the Lens | 2018 Program Info & Enrollment