Isabella Tanaka Blog Photo

exclusive interview with gap student isabella tanaka

Why did you choose to do a Gap Year? Why Amigos?

In 2014, I participated as a volunteer with AMIGOS in Costa Rica after my Spanish teacher recommended it for me. I had such a positive experience working in two beautiful national parks and my host community, Las Brisas, that I decided college could wait a year to take a gap year. I was open minded and looked at other gap programs, but nothing compares to what Amigos offers. The independence that AMIGOS offers and their community-based approach are important to me.

What has been one of the most memorable moments you have had so far?

Working at La Curva, a smaller, more rural school, has been very rewarding. After first semester, when I had some teaching experience under me, my agency let me go teach English to the students alone (without the help of the English teacher). Every Tuesday, I go to the school. I get to make my own plans for first through sixth grade. The students there are very excited about learning English, making Tuesday’s the highlight of my week. Working as a teacher at La Curva has become a life changing skill.

What was one of your biggest challenges? How did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge was fitting in at my host agency. There’s about 50 teachers at the school, and it wasn’t easy to make friends at first. I started to sit next to a different person on the bus everyday, and forced myself to make conversation no matter how silly I might sound. I learned if you put yourself out there, you can make amazing relationships. As an introvert, it definitely was not easy, but it was worth it.

Who is your internship partner? What do you do at your internship?

I am partnered with Fundacion Pantaleon. I work in two of their schools teaching English. In one school, I work alongside the school’s English teacher, but in the other I am all alone and I love it!

What are three interesting things you have learned about living in Nicaragua + one thing you’ll miss.

1. I can wear jeans in 90+ degree heat. 2. I have a love / hate relationship with public transportation. 3. A simple life can be a beautiful life.

I’ll miss the food! Getting bags of mangos, avocados, and guavas from students and teachers has been a big highlight of the year. Gallo pinto (rice and beans), tajadas (fried plantains), tortillas (made fresh daily), and soup (a very big deal here) will be dearly missed.

What would be one piece of advice you’d give someone who is considering a Gap year?

A gap year is an experience like no other. It is hard to explain how because everyone’s is so different, but I 110% recommend it. It was not easy convincing my parents to let me come to Nicaragua and not study or work for a year, but the arguments were worth it. My parents see how happy I am here and how much this year has meant to me.

What’s next for you?

This fall, I’ll be starting college at Boston University. I want to study Marine Science and a few languages. I plan to continue working with Amigos. I would like to be a supervisor next summer.

Natalie Murdock

Natalie spends her days marketing for AMIGOS, and her nights snuggling with her beagles while reading parenting books.