Giving Back, Travel Miscellaneous

CCI and Greenheart Travel Share the Gift of Cultural Exchange

by Jill Robinson and Braulio Fernandez, 2010 CCI Scholarship Winner

Back in February, my colleague Jessica and I attended the Daniel Murphy 2010 Summer Opportunities Fair at the Chicago Hope Academy. Despite being a frigid and grey day, Jessica was able to share a bit of sunshine as she explained the Costa Rica Summer Program that would allow four students from the Chicago area to immerse themselves in the Tican way of life. This 10-day program will allow a select group of teens to volunteer on an ecological reserve, while participate in hikes, sport and recreational activities and immerse themselves in the culture by staying with Costa Rican host families.

As the July trip approaches, Greenheart Travel and the Center for Cultural Interchange, is excited to announce that four students have been selected as scholarship winners for the 2010 Costa Rica environmental service learning program. Adding to this special group dynamic is Braulio Fernandez, a 16-year-old from Chicago, who shares his thoughts about this unique travel opportunity.


“My name is Braulio Fernandez, and like any teenager, I enjoy playing video games and playing sports. I also play basketball and row on my school’s crew team.

I love to try new things. Whether it be a new food, sport or travel, I like to see what the world has to offer. I credit my mom, Sandra, for my adventurous attitude. From a young age she’s pushed me to try new things. Every summer as a child she’d make sure I did something I’d never done before. She’d sign me up for cooking classes, art classes, sports camps, science camps etc.. Some people find it difficult to leave their comfort zone, but I’ve become accustomed to it and am now the one looking for summer programs.

I used to not travel much when I was younger, but now since I go to a boarding  school I move around more frequently. My favorite place to go to is Mexico. I’ve gone three times before, and went there last two Christmases ago. Whenever I go it’s to where my mom grew up, it’s a little rural town called Indaparapeo in the state of Michoacán. I simply love it there. Indaparapeo is not anywhere near being in Cancun with its sandy beaches and blue ocean waters, but I promise you that it’s better. When I’m there I see the genuine Mexico. I meet the real people and see the real customs, which is the aspect I enjoy the most about Mexico.

I’m not too nervous about going to Costa Rica. I have a few butterflies in my stomach, but I think that’s normal. I’m anxious, but it’s more from excitement than anything else. I don’t know much about Costa Rican customs and am very interested in learning. When I went to Mexico I learned so much about my culture. I thought I knew my culture pretty well, but it wasn’t until I fully immersed myself in the country that I learned it all. I’ve heard a few things about Costa Rica online and on TV, but you can’t get the full experience until your there living it.

I think this trip is just going to further prove that it’s beneficial to take risks and try new things. I will be so happy from being able to experience Costa Rica when I return home. I feel like sometimes people allow themselves to make assumptions about other cultures without any knowledge. I love all cultures. I think it’s so interesting to see how people different than I live. It’s interesting to see the differences, but also the similarities that all cultures share.”

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.

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