I am without words to describe our experience in Costa Rica. The few that come to mind are inadequate: awesome, enlightening, mind-blown, challenging, growth-filled, unique, life changing. I’m going to describe it through pictures as best as I can:
In the airport, as we were about to leave for Costa Rica, I wondered what was in store for the summer. I barely knew my teammates and had no idea what to expect from Costa Rica. The experience defied all expectations: it was not a vacation, I learned more in ten weeks than in a year at school, trials abounded but carried opportunities as well, and what started out as a team of strangers turned into close friends.
It didn’t take long for us to find common ground, and through shared experiences and interests we quickly became good friends. (The guys as well, though not pictured).
During several of the short courses, it was an honor to work with many Ticos (Costa Ricans). We learned together, worked together, observed together, ate together, and grew together. I was impressed by their work ethic, friendliness, experience, and creativity. If there’s a Tico near, I want them on my team!
After learning about needs finding, we got to practice in Hospital Mexico. As a mechanical engineer, I had never really looked around a hospital before so it was enlightening to me. Overlaying the universal hospital atmosphere was a distinct Costa Rican feel: open air hallways, gardens, and touches of personality.
Our next course taught us how to design in a fast-paced environment. We researched, brain stormed, designed, revised, prototyped, and pitched our design all in five short days. I’d never thought of using spaghetti sticks on a prototype before, but it worked.
We took a break and got to experience the Tico culture at a national soccer game. It was a reminder that every country has certain events that unite everyone. For the USA, it’s football, for Costa Rica, it’s soccer. We’re all human and enjoy a good time with friends and competition.
I quickly learned that one of the trademarks of Costa Rica is her biodiversity. Her animals are as friendly as her people. As the hummingbirds greeted me, so did the people on the street, welcoming me warmly.
One of the best parts of our last short course was learning from my teammates. They had real jobs and industry experience that they shared with me throughout the week as we worked on our project. Honestly, I learned more from them than from the class itself (no offense Dr. Richardson!).
Something that ignited my passion this summer was our project DialOasis. I realized that we were and will continue to work on real projects that can make true impacts. I am no longer just completing homework, but am beginning to change the world.
However, as I make the transition to “real” projects, I am becoming more emotionally invested in them. I experienced the stress of completing the project on time, the fear of damage as it felt like our baby, and the joy of success as we pulled it off.
I am under no illusions that all projects and endeavors are successes. As with surfing, sometimes we stand up and ride on top of the waves of circumstances. But other times, the waves knock us down. It’s the choice to stand back up that is the key to success. (The right wave and a teacher help tons as well).
Interning at Boston Scientific was an amazing opportunity for me. I learned more than I can put into words and I am immeasurably grateful to Boston for the opportunity. I hope that our paths will cross again (or even merge) in the future.
One thing that makes Boston stand out in my mind is their commitment to their values. They put the patient first and always deliver top-notch quality. I learned that the values of a company, although they may seem superficial, drive a company and determine its destiny.
Something that I learned from so many new experiences and perspectives this summer is that unlikely things in unlikely places cause reevaluations in thinking that can lead to new trajectories. For example: for me, raccoons belong in the forest. So why is this one on the beach? How are my preconceived notions of patients’ environments limiting my ideas?
Through my interactions with different divisions in Boston, and my trainings, I realized that there is so much detail under the surface of everything. I would have never thought that this “simple” box required months to create; the perforations, the opening tab, the colors, the label, and so much more.
With this many details behind everything, true beauty often requires a very laborious route. Just as we had to hike through over a mile of ankle-deep mud to arrive at this waterfall; a functional, regulatory compliant, aesthetically-pleasing product requires lots of toil.
As I attempted to do a physician’s job on a simplified dummy, I realized just how much skill physicians possess. They make my failed task look as easy as brushing their teeth. I will never underestimate or undervalue them again.
I experienced and came to appreciate the Pura Vida lifestyle. Pura Vida does not mean laziness or tardiness as I initially thought; it means working hard and knowing what’s important. It means putting family before work and knowing when to relax in order to be refreshed for the next endeavor.
While adventuring is fun, and “flying” was amazing, making an impact is infinitely more fulfilling. I gained valuable skills, knowledge, experience, and perspective in Costa Rica that will aid me to continue my journey at Rice and eventually into the medical device industry.
This week, instead of three fun facts, I will share the three things that I will miss most about Costa Rica:
- My coworkers at Boston. They were so kind, friendly, and helpful. They took pains to include me not only in work but also in conversations, meetings, and life. They were a great blessing to me and have spoiled me for my next job.
- The beautiful landscapes of Costa Rica. From mountains to beaches, jungles to waterfalls, rivers to volcanos, Costa Rica is truly one of God’s masterpieces. Going back to flat Texas, I am going to miss the mountains that surround San Jose.
- Spanish immersion. I truly love the Spanish language and the challenge it brings as I try to string phrases and words together to communicate. When I begin to think in Spanish, the world suddenly becomes more colorful. I enjoy listening to the undulations and musical tones as Ticos speak Spanish and will be somewhat sad to return to flat English.
My key take-away from the summer was confirmation that I want to work in the medical device industry. Coming from a mechanical engineering background, I had a fuzzy idea of what bioengineers do. However, after living it for ten weeks, I now know more specifically what bioengineers do and I love it. This summer ignited my passion to create and develop devices that can impact millions of people all over the world. I am hopeful and excited to see what God has planned for my future in this industry.
So while I am sad to leave Costa Rica, knowing that I will return (for projects and pleasure) make it easier to leave. It is “see you later” and not “goodbye.” I am excited to begin classes at Rice soon and to continue learning, working, and making an impact.
Click here to watch my video of Costa Rica.