By Andrew Padilla

Andrew Eric Padilla ('19) is majoring in Biology. In this interview with the Global Education Office, Andrew talks about the unexpected upside of the homestay experience and how "going with the flow" turned out to be the best approach for handling the unfamiliar.

  • Duke in Costa Rica 2017 cohort

Tell us why you decided to do this program.

I decided to participate in Duke in Costa Rica due to raving reviews from previous students on the program. They talked about how incredibly immersive the program was and how much fun they had. I was looking for a unique way to spend my summer and this program was the perfect opportunity.

Compare how your skills or knowledge changed after doing this program.

The greatest skill I gained after this program was my confidence in speaking Spanish. Before doing the program, I was often nervous of my abilities in any setting whatsoever. But through the homestay and the constant use of Spanish, this changed dramatically. My confidence in speaking Spanish in the United States is so much higher and even if I mess up, it doesn’t faze me anymore. The program really challenged me outside my comfort zone with the language, but in the best and most conducive way possible. 

Thinking back to what you expected this program to be like, would you say anything surprised you or turned out differently?

The best surprise of the program was my homestay. My family was everything I could have dreamed of and more. I was incredibly nervous about this aspect of the program above anything else. Would I get along with the family? Would I like the food? Would my living space be comfortable? The answers to all these questions were yes, yes and yes. My host mom was more of a grandma and was full of so much wisdom and awesome perspectiveness of the world that I had never engaged with before. She was also an amazing cook, and as a lover of food, she made dishes that stil make my mouth water. Along with keeping me full, the house was super clean and my host mom always made sure I had everything I needed.

Tell us about your greatest takeaway from this program.

The greatest takeaway I will get from this program is to go with the flow. It is such a cliché phrase, but one that I believe is very applicable to Duke in Costa Rica. The various times I was put in new situations, from the moment I got off the plane were countless. Instead of freaking out about this novelty, I strove to embrace each opportunity with personal growth, to learn something new about myself. I really have gained an appreciation of people in a way I know that I lacked before and can really attribute these results to not stressing and that sometimes going with the flow is the best option.

How did/will this program play into the rest of your undergraduate experience?

This program will play into the rest of my experience in a few ways. First, the relationships I made with fellow Duke students on the program are so incredibly great and can call each one of them friends. Seeing them on campus constantly reminds me of the program and how fortunate I was to participate. We always talk about random events that occurred and having these friendships are incredibly rewarding.

The other relationship that will affect my undergraduate experience is that with Profe (Prof. Bethzaida Fernandez). Profe was one of the best part of the trip by far. She was always so engaging and passionate about everything she was teaching us and the places she took us. She was clearly so proud to be from Costa Rica and I believe that it really resonated through the attitudes of everyone on the program. This program would not be the same without her.


Andrew Eric Padilla
Biology, Class of 2019
Duke in Costa Rica
Summer 2017


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