Best Advice I’ve Ever Received

The advice that has helped to shape who I am today.
Gretchen Hinkel

During my final semester of college, I completed my student teaching at a school in Santa Ana, Costa Rica. 

When I arrived, I was the only student teacher at the school.  I was homesick and in culture shock.  I realized that although I had travelled to Europe in the past, Costa Rica was going to be much different.  Eventually I adapted, but it took longer than I thought it would to get used to showering without hot water and eating hot dogs for breakfast.

In order to make me feel more at home, the principal at the school kindly introduced to me to an American woman who had been working at the school for a few months.  She was nice enough, and invited me out to one of her favorite local spots for happy hour one day after we left work.

She talked a lot, and I mostly just listened.  She was fascinating to me.  She had graduated from school in Virginia, and then spent two years teaching in Dubai, two years in the UAE and then she had just started her placement in Costa Rica.  She was so well travelled and knew so much.  Her stories were interesting and she seemed excited to have found someone to listen.

Instantly, she became my mentor.  She took me under her wing and offered advice that I continue to live by today.  “Never stop exploring.”  Yes – of course I’ve heard this quote before, and probably saw it on a few shirts and tumblers, but it hit me differently coming from her.  She was the first person I met who really was living by this advice.

She was open minded and willing to try anything.  When other student teachers arrived for their placements, she shared the same advice with them and helped us learn to navigate through a new country without fear.  During our placement we spent our time exploring a lot of Costa Rica together.

When our placements ended and it was time for us to go home, we said our goodbyes and she reminded us to keep traveling. I have traveled many more places since this experience and every time I post a photo, she always comments about how proud she is that I have continued to explore. 

Although I wish I was able to be traveling abroad now, I have vowed to myself to continue to explore what I can from where I am.  There are plenty of new restaurants, hikes and parks that I can go to near my home.  Changing my attitude and keeping an open mind has allowed me to continue to explore, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon!

The courtyard in the school where we both taught and met.

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