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It was sunset in Costa Rica, and the sun was setting directly over the horizon. Waves lapped at my feet as I held a large surfboard under my arm. Anxiety started to set in. Would I be able to surf without getting knocked down by a wave? Would I get hurt?

Amidst the panic, I had a realization. I have no reason to fear. I can do this. I just need to have faith and remain calm. I took a few deep breaths. My dad and brother were there with me, ready to cheer me on from the sand. I stepped forward towards the ocean.

This was January of this year during a visit to my mother’s home country. It had a profound impact on my perspective and attitude toward life in the past few months. In fact, I had an eerie feeling that this trip would be significant from the beginning.

While in Costa Rica, I wrote a list of my goals and aspirations for my spring semester at IUP. It was only a couple days after the New Year, and I knew my main goal: quitting vaping. Unfortunately, it was the second day in, and I had failed already. I created a detailed outline of my goals so that I had a plan to make them reality. This included improving my relationship with food, prioritizing sleep, going to the gym and exercising regularly, scheduling alone time and rest for myself, setting clear boundaries, standing up for myself and what I believe in, achieving certain grades, and staying away from nicotine altogether, once and for all. I wrote out a detailed plan on how I planned to do this and that truly made all the difference.

My plan, combined with my realization that day on the beach, made me feel increasingly confident. I have not vaped since January third (just over three months!) I finally gained substantial weight. I have grown exponentially in my faith, as a person, and in my relationships. And, I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone!

It seems that once I realized my potential, opportunities began to present themselves. I am excited to be vice president of Her Campus at IUP next year, and I look forward to working with our awesome future president, Madison, as CCs! I also was given an opportunity to attend a networking event and connect with nurses in the area, particularly IRMC. This has made me feel even more excited for my future career as a nurse, and I hope to take advantage of some opportunities to gain experience before graduating. 

I overcame some deep-rooted, retrospectively silly fears. I overcame my fear of singing in front of others: I joined the worship team at Revelry Church and have received nothing but support from my church and family, even despite a few mistakes. I also played my rookie season of ice hockey on the women’s team at IUP. I appreciated being a part of a team for the first time since high school, as the previous season had been canceled due to COVID. In only one season, I have made some amazing friends who I cannot imagine playing hockey without.

I learned that sometimes things don’t always work out, and that’s okay. We can learn from them and plan better for next time. When a fundraising idea I had for HC fell through, I was worried I had disappointed everyone. Instead, the girls assured me it was not my fault and encouraged me by pointing out that the event could be held next year, even when Alicia and Michaela are gone. (Side note: I’m going to miss all my HC seniors!) I’m also beginning to learn to say no and reflect on relationships in my life from a different perspective. It is interesting to observe how my identity, factors I cannot change about myself, influences my day to day interactions: being a Latina with significant white privilege, a first-gen college student, a Christian, etc. I see how others are discriminated against for factors they can’t change either. I see how male friends excuse misogynistic behavior, comments, and actions. This has certainly made me reflect on the value of some relationships in my life.

I have also gained a deeper appreciation for the wonderful relationships in my life. My best friends have provided me unending support through some hard times. My boyfriend, Joey, has managed to make me smile when all I want to do is cry and has been my biggest fan at my hockey games, giving me tips and encouragement. It has been so rewarding to see the invaluable relationships in my life grow through hardship and happiness.

Overall, my realizations and planning in Costa Rica has made me feel much more confident and motivated throughout this past semester. I also realized that I wanted to connect with Costa Rica on a deeper level and applied for a medical Spanish program this summer at Veritas University. This will give me the course hours needed to become a medical interpreter, something I aspire to incorporate in my nursing career. I hope to connect with my culture from a different perspective and gain an even deeper appreciation for my roots.

Sophomore year went by in a flash, but not without incredible value and many lessons. I encourage you to tell those anxious thoughts in your head that they are false, and realize that you are full of potential that only you can unlock. You may just notice a big change.

Lover of pumpkin pie and curiosity. IUP Nursing 2024
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