Hello, My name is Jacquelyn but the majority often call me Jacque. I am originally from Fullerton, CA, but I currently live on the east-coast to attend graduate school. I graduated from undergrad at Howard University in Washington, DC and am now pursing my Master of Social Work at the University of Maryland Baltimore. I love dogs seeing as though I have one back at home in California, and I love to laugh. Overall I am very laid back and passionate about my work.


 Posted by Jacquelyn at 10:52 am  Uncategorized  Comments Off on Final
Sep 012015


So sadly this will be my last entry.  I have recently returned to the US and find it so difficult to live in a world without Spanish.  I discovered so many new things about myself while living in Costa Rica for a month, and I definitely can’t wait to learn more during this school year.  I learned about the type of people I like and possibly don’t like, I learned about what kind of person I want to be, and I learned that patience is very important when traveling abroad.  Having patience with yourself to learn the culture and language, patience to finish your volunteer project when you feel homesick, patience with your agency because they may not get things right at your project all the time.  Although I know that I have a long way to grow, I am so glad that I was able to start my journey with Maximo Nivel.  Costa Rica was the perfect place for me, and I will miss her everyday.


Thank you so very much for following my journey, and please keep me in your prayers as I embark on my final year of graduate school.  On my next trip I will try to journal a little more frequently.


Until next time,



Me and my tico family

Spelling Bee

 Posted by Jacquelyn at 10:42 am  Costa Rica  Comments Off on Spelling Bee
Sep 012015

Hello All!

I know I kind of left you all hanging after the spelling bee prep.  Things just got so busy with preparing to come home and wrapping up with the kids and presenting my overview of the agency, but I did not forget about you.  So to fill you in on what happened at the spelling bee, we had both cycle one and cycle two competing in the spelling bee.  If you don’t remember, cycle one is first through third grad and cycle two is fourth through sixth grade.

The English festival had many parts, first we started with a poem in English then we had two dance performances; one by second grade students and the other was an outside vendor.  After those exciting performances we started with the impromptu speeches then the spelling bee.  Our first graders were so nervous for the impromptu speeches that one ran off stage; I thought that was only in the movies (Akeelah and the Bee).  Our second cycle students did very well, still nervous but no running off stage hahaha.  I was so amazed at my students!  They memorized the speeches we practiced AND even remembered the correction as to make the sentences flow.  After about 10 min of intense speeches we finally had one winner from each cycle. Next we finally started with the spelling bee.  Oh man my little nuggets (the students) were so nervous they were shaking in their uniforms.  When we started the competition each on would come up to the podium and whisper “teacher I’m so nervous” in Spanish of course.  At first the audience was a little nervous but as we continued with the numerous rounds it became increasingly silent.  Every time a hard word was spelled correctly the crowd would let out a huge sigh of relief.  Finally, the first cycle students had a winner Andres!  He was so excited and so was I, I wanted to jump up and hug him but we still had to finish with the second cycle students.  The second cycle wasn’t as easy because we had a fluent English speaker and another girl who studied day and night.  We went back and forth for almost 45min only to get stopped in our tracks by the word “piece”.  As many of us know piece and peace are homophones and unfortunately, despite a definition and an example, my bilingual student crumbled.  The winner was a fifth grade girl who accepted her title gracefully.  Upon her win she was invited to compete in the district spelling bee the following week.  At the end of the competition we presented awards to all of the participants and took lots of pictures.  The celebratory song was 50 cent “party like its your birthday” believe it or not hahaha; the kids were super hype and the song definitely gave them reason.


Once again sorry for the delay



The English festival sign

My student and I


Some of the spelling bee participants

The cutest second graders EVER!!

Week 3

 Posted by Jacquelyn at 2:10 pm  Costa Rica  Comments Off on Week 3
Aug 142015

Wow! I can’t believe it is already the end of week three in Costa Rica.  Everything has flown by so fast, just last week I was ready to go home because I missed my family so much and now I am ready to stay an extra week.  These pass two weeks have been filled with busy work and great experiences with my project at Dulce Nombre.  To summarize last week, I was able to teach my first lesson as a “Teacher”.   My class learned about the different country flags and their corresponding capitals as well as the 7 continents.  I tried to make the learning fun since the majority of what I was saying they couldn’t understand, but because its an English class I was instructed to teach in English.  The kids seemed to find our games and worksheets quite fun, so that was rewarding for me.  When I was not teaching about the countries and their capitals, I was practicing with my Spelling Bee students for todays event (14-08-15).  Man those kids are so amazing!  They are absolutely dominating these words without even knowing all the rules of English. I applaud their work, and I cannot wait to see them perform today at this Spelling Bee.

Now these pass two weeks have not been all gumdrops and rainbows, I have definitely had some challenging students.  Two in particular I personally wanted to give a little talking to, but the way my Spanish is set up I couldn’t really do that hahaha.  First, there was a  boy who probably would be labeled with ODD or some other emotional disturbances if we were in the US, but since we are not he is just considered difficult.  On my first day teaching he answered one of my questions wrong, and I politely said he was incorrect (with a smile because that’s what they teach us in ESL).  After that some of the kids started to laugh at him and he proceeded to say something rude in Spanish, of course I didn’t understand everything but body language and tone communicates a lot. Once he was done with his outburst, he no longer wanted to participate with the class.  I wanted to make him feel welcomed to reenter the class discussion so I tried to ask him questions that I knew he would know, and even tried to speak a little Spanish in hopes to increase his comfortability.  At the end of the week, he seemed to warm up to me which made me happy.  Next was a young girl, she was just blatantly disrespectful!  We were doing another class activity and she had her phone out, so I politely asked her to put her phone away (I looked that up in Spanish before I started teaching).  She did, but then right when I turned around she brought it back out.  I asked her again but this time she didn’t put it away.  I really don’t like when people are disrespectful because I feel like everyone deserves respect especially people who are older than you, so of course her behavior got under my skin.  Needless to say, I gave her a Claire Huxstable look and she understood that.

Besides those two encounters, everything else was great and I had some pretty funny interactions with my kids!  I am so ready for this spelling bee, and I can’t wait to see how well my kids perform.


Until next time,




La Fortuna

 Posted by Jacquelyn at 2:22 pm  Costa Rica  Comments Off on La Fortuna
Aug 052015

This past weekend a fellow Maximo volunteer  (Jess) and I rode the bus to La Fortuna which is the home to Arenal volcano.  This bus ride took a total of 4 hours which is very similar to traveling from Baltimore to NY, which isn’t unfamiliar to me.  The bus ride went pretty smoothly, and I occasionally found myself forgetting that I was in Costa Rica because things were so similar to Los Angeles.  For example, the markets that we passed through look just like downtown LA, and the bus driver was even playing American Pop music.  Obviously the main difference is the language.

On our ride over to La Fortuna the bus driver put on Cinderella 2.  Now for those of you who know me know that I love the vast majority of Disney movies.  As a child, and even now, I watch any and all Disney movies for calming and extracurricular purposes.  So you wouldn’t believe my surprise when the entire Cinderella 2 movie was in Spanish.  I know that I should not expect English, especially being in a Latin country, but I was just so taken aback.  But instead of tuning out of the movie, I decided to put my Spanish classes to the test and see if I could understand the movie.  Also, that was the only other entertainment I had on this 4 hour bus ride.  Ultimately I understood the general theme of the movie by using a combination of body language and my new vocabulary list.  Finally we arrived to La Fortuna and all I can say is that I fell in love with it at first sight.  I saw the volcano in the distance and couldn’t wait to climb it but then I was told it was a four hour hike so yeah hahaha.  The view was so beautiful from our hostel it seemed unreal, and we got to experience this for a $3.55 bus ride not including our hostel of course.  Once we settled into our hostel we quickly made plans for Saturday.  We found a tour agency that included 9 zip lining cables, 1 waterfall rappel, a short hike, n introduction to the Maleiku indigenous tribe, and a horse ride all for $45.  I was so excited!  Upon our second return back to the hostel we met some travelers from Mexico, these girls invited us to accompany them to a free hot spring just 15 minutes away.  Even though we recently met the girls we decided to just wing it, and yes I was very nervous because they could easily drop us by the river and leave but I prayed and hoped for the best.  The hot spring turned out to be an awesome experience, after a long day on the bus the hot spring was exactly what my body needed.  At the hot spring we were able to try some exfoliating mud which was suppose to help us connect with nature blah blah blah lol I just wanted to exfoliate ;).  Once we rinsed the mud off, we headed home to get some well needed sleep for our early 730a Arenal tour.  The following morning we ate breakfast and headed down to the tour site, and they drove us up to the mountains where the tour would be held.  There we received our instructions and waivers of course, then began strapping up for our first zip line.  The first one was super exciting, I felt like a real adventurer, then we got to the eighth….Now cable eight was a little scary for me because the instructor wanted me to hang upside down.  I watched my friend go first so I could get up the nerve, but when my turn came I was still scared.  I did not want to be labeled as the chicken in the group so I went ahead a did it, especially because this is apart of me trying to get out of my comfort zone.  The upside down zip was actually very fun, except for the little gnat that was in my mouth afterwards hahahah ewwwwww (definitely brushed when I got home)!  To make the rest of this story short, I had a tremendous time trying these new adventures at Arenal especially the zipping and horseback riding.  The waterfall rappel was torture I was literally shaking all the way down smh and our mini hike lol well it was definitely short because I slipped on some mud in the forest and called it quits.  I hate being dirty and I especially hate bugs, but I was trying something new so hey pura vida!

Until next time,


Getting stuck on the zip cable

Zip lining on cable one I think…

Cable 8

El caballo and Arenal volcano behind me

and had to pull myself in

Waterfall Rappelling. Scariest thing ever!

First week at the project

 Posted by Jacquelyn at 12:21 pm  Costa Rica  Comments Off on First week at the project
Aug 042015

The first day of my project site at Dulce Nombre (a public elementary school) was on Tuesday July 28.  I arrived an hour early to my project because the bus route usually takes an hour and a half to two hours, and of course I did not want to be late on my first day.  Although time is very fluid here in Costa Rica, my host agency wants us to be an example and keep our punctuality.  Upon my arrival, I went to the secretary’s office to ask for my site coordinator but because only some people in the school knew who I was the administrators looked very confused when I asked for my site coordinator.  When they finally found my site coordinator we went straight to work.  She is on of the English teachers in the school, but she never stays in one class which is why it was hard to find her in the mornings.  Since this is a public school it is easy to assume that it is crowded and understaffed so my presence at the school is greatly appreciated.  For the first part of the day I observed my site coordinators classroom and introduced myself to her 2nd and 3rd graders.  For the second portion of the day I lead a spelling bee practice session, which is my main goal here at Dulce Nombre.  In order to teach the children English like we intend to at the school, the teachers came up with the idea of a school wide spelling bee.  Every day during the week I work with grades 1-6 with memorizing a combination of site words and non-site words.  I found this class very challenging mostly because of our language barrier.  Granted I can speak more than basic Spanish, but in order to teach a class I needed to learn more vocabulary.  Needless to say I became very overwhelmed with the constant pausing and blank stares that the children gave and vice versus.  I know that this experience is going to be beneficial but on my first day I felt so defeated especially when I went to my Spanish lesson after school.  I tried to explain in Spanish what I did, but I found that difficult as well.  Due to this overwhelming sense of incompetence, I tried to focus on how happy the teachers were when they saw we walk through those school doors.  The following days at my project were relatively easier.  The kids were extremely receptive to me and on the second and third day of my arrival the spelling bee classes grew form 15 to 25-30 children.  Like I mentioned in the beginning, Dulce Nombre is a public school with little to no resources so since my spelling classes grew we were forced to hold class outside.  Both the children and I did not like this experience especially because they could not hear me.  Nonetheless, the children were very ecstatic to learn new words and seemed certainly interested in who I was and were I was from and how I looked.  They all just kept staring at me for the first 5-10 minutes while complimenting my hair and my features, it was very interesting.  The second and third graders seemed to be amazed by my presence the most.  They kept hugging and holding me during our spelling class and during my class observations.  This culture definitely knows how to express their love and gratitude for a person, I just hope I can reciprocate that love and gratitude.



Until next time



 Posted by Jacquelyn at 3:03 pm  Costa Rica  Comments Off on Orientation
Jul 272015

Today was my first day of orientation at Maximo Nivel, and it started at 8a.  I took the bus to school for the first time today with some help from a host mom.  The bus cost 270 colones (native money) which I think roughly equates to 50 cents in the US.  There are no signs to tell you where to stand and people just hop on and off the bus because the doors never close.  When I arrived for orientation we went over the basic safety tips for living abroad and also some basic rules for my project site.  After that, we went on a walking tour of the sites surrounding Maximo Nivel.  There I was able to meet some of the people I conversed with via email prior to the trip.  Everyone was very welcoming and almost all of us had something in common i.e. birthplace, undergraduate majors, future interests etc.  As we explored the perimeter of Maximo and some of San Pedro we discovered lots of food places, supermercados and banks.  At the end of the tour our guide gave us free reign to revisit the places he recently showed us.  My fellow California’s and I decided to get some lunch (almuerzo) and exchange our money at the bank of Costa Rica for some colones.  For lunch I went to a place called Tico’s hamburgesas which sells hamburgers and more.  I figured that I didn’t come all the way to CR just to eat a hamburger so I ordered a chicken empanada.  Ordering this meal was an experience within its self, the hostess immediately spouted off in Spanish which I expected.  What I didn’t expect was to have such a hard time ordering a simple empanada.  I thought I would walk in and say “hola, puedo tener un empanada con agua por favor” and be done hahah yeah right.  The hostess wanted to know if I wanted a regular empanada which I thought I ordered, but apperantly empanadas are more complicated than I thought.  I kept trying to tell her to slow down, but nothing seemed to work.  Needless to say, I think I do not like “un empanada regular” smh I will just order a hamburger next time.  So after I received my food I went back to Maximo to eat and take my Spanish diagnostic test.  This test went as expected, and I performed just as I expected intermediate 1.  Not too low but not super high, I was satisfied with my scores nonetheless.  Not immediately following the test, I met with my Spanish instructor.  To my surprise she looked more like me than anyone else I had encountered thus far.  She was brown skinned just like myself which made me very happy seeing as though being the only dark skinned person within 5 kilometers can get a little intimidating.  My instructor was very nice, but determined to make me speak Spanish.  We had an hour lesson which completely pulled every Spanish word out of my brain.  At the end of the lesson she gave me some homework and reassurance about my Spanish speaking level.  Overall, today went very well and after my Spanish lesson Arcy (host mom) picked me up to bring me home.



Until next time,



My arrival

 Posted by Jacquelyn at 1:28 pm  Costa Rica  Comments Off on My arrival
Jul 262015

Oh My Gosh!  I have finally arrived in Costa Rica, and although there was a small bump in the road this morning I am so glad to be here.  Both of my flights went smoothly, no turbulence or lost baggage so I am very happy.  As many of you may know, this is my first international flying experience and because of that I did not know what to expect.  My first flight went as expected seeing as though we were still within the US, but my second flight took me by surprise.  Now it may not be a big deal to others, but when I boarded my second plane I was surprised to hear all of the instructions in Spanish first.  I knew that I was flying to a Spanish speaking country, but it didn’t occur to me that there would be Spanish flight attendants.  So as I waited for the plane to finish boarding I struggled to understand the instructions being given through the intercom.  All four years of Spanish seemed to fly right out the plane door as the flight attendant began informing the passengers about the details of our flight.  Fortunately, a couple minutes later someone repeated the same instructions in English but that situation reminded me of my language privilege.  Thankfully, four hours later I landed in San Jose Costa Rica.  I stood in the immigration line which wasn’t as bad as I expected and then I went straight through to customs (aduanas in Spanish).  I was then greeted by the sweetest man, he was holding a yellow smiley face flag (that’s what they told me to look for) and a yellow Panamanian bag.  He asked for my name and then proceeded to ask me if I spoke Spanish hahaha yeah right!  We spoke until the car came to pick us up then I checked in with GVN and was taken to meet my host family.  My host mom is a very nice woman, she has a younger daughter and a three legged dog (Hachi).  She is housing another volunteer which I have yet to meet, but she speaks very highly of him.  After settling in we proceeded to meet the rest of her family who live like right around the corner literally.  They all started speaking Spanish to me, but then my host mom stopped them to explain that I only know a little Spanish.  They all were very welcoming and tried to speak slower in order for me to understand them a bit better.  Hopefully when we start our Spanish classes I will get more comfortable speaking Spanish and be able to understand more.  On the other hand, my room if great!  It is very comfortable and has more than enough room for my clothes, overall the house seems very welcoming.  I know this is a pretty general day, but its my first day ever in another country so I had to get all the details.  Oh something else very random that I noticed here is that people don’t really say Hola, they just say Buenas and they don’t say adios they say hasta luego or caio.  I guess they left that out of the Spanish book haha


Until next time,


Counting Down

 Posted by Jacquelyn at 6:03 am  Costa Rica  Comments Off on Counting Down
Jul 172015


My name is Jacquelyn but the majority often call me Jacque. I am originally from Fullerton, CA, but I currently live on the east-coast to attend graduate school at the University of Maryland Baltimore.  So this week I have started packing for my quickly approaching departure date, and today I went to my pharmacy to get one of the vaccines that I need for my trip to Costa Rica.  While at the pharmacy I called my grandma to ask her a random question like I usually do, fortunately she was awake when I called.  See she lives on the west-coast so I always have to remember that they are three hours behind me, and sometimes I forget and call her kind of early.  After she answered the phone, she proceeded to ask me how I was doing and if I was excited for my trip.  Honestly at that moment she sounded more excited for the trip than I did.  For so many years I have been waiting to travel and volunteer overseas, and now that it is finally happening everything seems so surreal to me. As I took a second to think about her question, I realized that yes I am excited!  This is a whole new journey for me, and I am so grateful and excited to have a chance to experience this new culture and language first hand.  I have studied Spanish and the Latin culture for some of my adult life, but now I will finally be able to be immersed in it and feel all of its beauty.  Just thinking about the different sounds and smells and sights I will see makes me want to get there as soon as possible.  So as I continue to pack and gather the last few essentials for my trip, I will remember this feeling and keep my mind focused on the new journey I am embarking on.  I can’t wait to tell you guys how my adventure unfolds, and about the new people I will meet.


P.S. I can’t wait to post pictures of me zip-lining (fingers crossed)


Until next time,



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