Teen immersed in Costa Rican culture
New Trier senior Dianarose Fraum, 17, spent her summer in Costa Rica taking part in a service project. | Image by Campfire Creative
Having always wanted to immerse herself in the culture of another country, New Trier High School senior Dianarose Fraum, looked no further than her older cousin for inspiration.
Fraum’s cousin, Nicole Martin, spent her 2011 summer in Costa Rica taking part in a service project and experiencing a new country.
“I wanted to go on an immersion trip, but I really didn’t know which one,” said Fraum, of Wilmette. “I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country because I take Spanish in school.”
Like her cousin the summer prior, Fraum applied to the Walking Tree Travel program in hopes of experiencing her own immersion trip. The application process included submitting a personal statement and letters of recommendation.
During her four weeks in the Central American country Fraum, and about 20 other students, lived with host families in Pueblo Nuevo and traveled to towns such as Monteverde.
“It was eye opening,” Fraum said. “These people live with so little. Some had no hot water. It is such a small, close community and the whole town was like one family.”
On weekends the students participated in activities such as zip lining, surfing, shopping and seeing national parks. The group also visited hot springs, active volcanoes and other points of interest.
During the week Fraum and the students rolled up their sleeves as they helped build a new concrete playground for the town’s children. Fraum said it was extra special building the playground for her host family’s two kids, 4-year-old Teylor and 2-year-old Donna.
“My favorite parts were just hanging out with my family,” Fraum said. “Getting to know them and having dinners was amazing. It felt like they were your own family.”
Walking Tree Travel Founder Paul Laurie said his company offers high school students 30 different trips each year to various countries around the world.
Each student spends about 100 hours working on their service project in the town they visit and Laurie likens his organization to a Peace Corps for high school kids.
“It’s for pretty highly motivated high school students,” Laurie said. “The real goal is to have a meaningful exchange overseas so they can develop as global citizens, go out and see the world, speak new languages and make the world a smaller place.”
The trip has created life-long friendships between Fraum and her fellow students.
“The people I met on that trip, I can’t go a few days or a week without talking to them,” Fraum said. “In that month you go through so much and you’re with them through all of it.”
Students interested in immersion trips through Walking Tree Travel can visit walkingtree.org. ~.