Spending time abroad must be about the best educational experience there is. I am fortunate that I have been traveling to different countries since I was sixteen. Even now, many (okay, many, many, many) years later, I value the experience just as much, perhaps even more.
This summer, I had the fabulous experience of spending a month with a host family in a small city in Costa Rica. As you probably already know, the country is stunningly beautiful, rich green, so plush. Of course, we went on many excursions, hiking to waterfalls and volcanoes, enjoying the beach, horseback riding, rappelling, zip-lining (my younger son’s favorite), and walking across hanging bridges (my older son’s favorite). We all had an amazing time.
No matter where I go, however, I cannot help but want to do something related to the profession. There seemed to be very few speech-language pathologists in Costa Rica, from what I could find. So, while my kids took classes in the mornings, I explored places where I could volunteer. I found a retirement home in a beautiful spot on the outskirts of the city. There, I worked with several wonderful individuals who had suffered strokes and with a dear woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They received physical therapy from a lovely and loving therapist, but speech-language therapy was simply not available there. My mornings there were a truly incredible part of the trip. I did not come prepared to give speech-language therapy, so it was a really neat experience finding creative ways and materials to use. And I made a lot of improvement in playing dominoes – what an excellent memory game!
Here, back home, it is incredible how many speech-language resources are available to clinicians. We are very fortunate. Even so, I’d have to agree with one of my professors from graduate school who used to say, “A good clinician could give good therapy with just a penny.” I loved the challenge to think outside the box.
The life-long learning and diversity in experiences are two of my favorite things about speech-language pathology. I cannot wait to go back to Costa Rica, and hopefully, with students in speech-language pathology!