Ah, summer vacation: images of frolicking children, lemonade stands, Fourth of July fireworks and Otter Pops spring to mind.
Not quite the case for college students. With the real world beckoning in a few short years, UP students must learn to make the most of their summer vacations, whether it is taking a summer class, doing an internship or simply working a summer job.
But all work and no play doesn’t have to be the only way. As three UP students learned, a study abroad program, internship or even a regular summer in Portland can reveal unexpected adventures and worthwhile experiences.
Pura Vida: Summer Study Abroad in Costa Rica
Many college students dream of spending their summer vacations in paradise, but sophomore Marissa Kelly made her dream a reality.
She spent five-and-a-half weeks this summer on a study abroad program to Costa Rica where she honed her Spanish speaking, tanned on tropical beaches, lived with a Costa Rican family and learned much more than how to roll her r’s.
“You learn so much about yourself,” Kelly said. “Your world is so expanded, and you learn so much about their culture and you learn about your own culture, too. It’s just such an amazing period for your personal growth.”
Kelly feels that her Spanish improved by leaps and bounds during her stay in Costa Rica.
“Being in a Spanish speaking country fast forwards the process so dramatically,” she said. “The first week and a half you feel like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know what I’m saying.’ Your family’s just talking to you and you have no idea what’s going on so you shake your head and smile, but then it just really starts to click.”
Kelly found that the sun was not the only warm thing about Costa Rica.
“I just really loved the warmth of the people,” she said. “One of the things we talked about in class is how Costa Rica is a warm climate country, so people are just way more friendly there.”
However, Kelly struggled with some aspects of the local culture.
“Something I did not like is that I hated the cat-calling from some of the guys on the street,” she said. “It’s definitely considered an ugly thing to call at women when they’re walking, but it definitely happens. It’s just something you take with a grain of salt.”
Before Costa Rica, Kelly was unsure what she wanted to do with her life. After spending time in the country, however, she decided to major in social work.
“I figured out that I’m really passionate about people and I have a huge heart for Central America, so right now I’m thinking that after I graduate I want to go into the Peace Corps and I want to serve that community,” she said.
Summer in the Slammer: Criminal Justice Internship
It’s safe to say that most college students would consider a summer behind bars a horrible experience.
Senior Camden Revell found hers to be just the opposite.
This summer, she completed an internship with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, working at two jails in Portland.
Revell, a criminal justice major, wanted firsthand experience working in the criminal justice system to aid her future career goals.
“I’m interested in working with juveniles but I would also like to work with the adult population,” she said. “I’m still trying to decide what I want to do, so maybe some kind of criminal rehabilitation. I could see myself doing a lot of things.”
Although Revell’s responsibilities included clothing exchange, dealing with property returns and organizing provisions for inmates with good behavior, she never found her work boring.
“Portland is really weird so you get a lot of really weird people coming in,” she said. “They always have weird stuff on them. We were releasing some guy who had to go get his property from the bins and in his property bag was his shoelaces and a rock and that was it.”
Working at both a minimum and maximum security jail made Revell see how some people can easily get stuck in a life of crime.
“The criminal justice system is like a revolving door for a lot of people,” she said. “I saw one guy one week in the jail, and then two weeks later I saw him come in. He had been arrested again. That’s always kind of disheartening.”
Revell said as a young woman, she knew she would be the object of comments from the largely male population in the jails, but she was also surprised the majority of the inmates treated her nicely.
“A lot of people think that when you work with criminals, that these people are all really awful people,” she said. “But for the most part, I was treated with a lot of respect. When a 60-year-old man with tattoos all over his face calls you ma’am and tells you to have a nice day, it does take you by surprise.”
One of the most powerful and meaningful things Revell took away from her internship was a conversation she witnessed between an older inmate and a young man just admitted to the jail.
“Listening to him telling this kid life advice, like ‘What are you doing here, you need to get right.’ Getting to hear that was really interesting,” she said. “Yeah, they’re criminals, but they’re not all awful people.”
The Bucket List: Portland Summer Adventures
This summer, senior Cecilia Cervantes took it upon herself to make major progress on her Portland bucket list.
“Everything I told myself I would do freshman year, I did this whole summer,” Cervantes said.
Cervantes was one of many UP students who spent their summers in Portland away from home. Even though she had a 40-hour internship during the week, she made time to visit the Hoyt Arboretum, try eclectic Portland eateries, enjoy the great outdoors and hit up street fairs.
One of Cervantes’ major trips in Portland this summer was hiking around Mt. Hood and Multnomah Falls with her friends, which she had never done in the summertime before.
Cervantes, a San Diego native, said Portland offers many opportunities for people to have cheap and convenient fun during the summer.
“Coming from San Diego, it’s a lot of things where you have to spend money,” she said. “But here, you’re actually in an activity. You’re listening to music, you’re participating in a fair, you’re walking around and seeing art and different things. The two states are obviously very different but here it was more spontaneous fun.”
Cervantes said her favorite moment of the summer was spent in true Portland fashion with her friends, in a park, with some great food and conversation.
“”This was a summer where we actually felt like we were Portlanders,” she said. “It was more like, we’re Portlanders, this is our city and this is our home.”