Three Spanish Immersion Programs, A Lifetime of Memories

“VISIONS has helped me be an active listener, take constructive criticism, and accept others despite our differences,” —Rachel Lippin-Foster

Rachel Lippin-Foster participated in three consecutive VISIONS Spanish Immersion programs throughout her high school years, including VISIONS Costa Rica (a prior program), VISIONS Peru, and VISIONS Nicaragua. Now a senior at Bates College, she is looking forward to graduation and the next stage of life.

Here, she looks back on her time with VISIONS, reflecting on what it was like to experience different cultures, landscapes, and people each summer, and how these experiences helped shape her into the person she is today.

Does one program stand out more than another? If so why?

Each summer was very different, and I remember each one fondly. If I had to choose one that stands out  it would be the Peru program, but I can’t point to one specific reason. I loved Urubamba, where we lived. I loved the weekend trips, especially to Pisac and Machu Picchu. I loved the projects we participated in, building bathrooms and cementing water irrigation canals, and I loved the culture and food specific to Peru. This trip largely influenced my later studies in college and directed many of my extracurricular interests. I was also fortunate to be able to return to Urubamba when I studied abroad in college this past year.

What was it like to return for another VISIONS programs after your initial year?

Returning for a second program was great! I was one of the youngest on my first program, and I did a lot of growing up on that trip. The second time around, I was able to expect the ups and downs that will always happen when you are a young student living in another country. I also knew to appreciate every moment; I think that is why my second program stands out compared to the others.

Are you still in touch with VISIONS alumni from your trips?

I am, and Facebook and other social media sites play a huge role in this. We are able to chat with each other, even if we live in different parts of the world. As we get older and start graduating from college, it has become easier to stay in touch. Recently I had lunch with one of my friends from my first VISIONS program. It was our first time seeing each other after seven years, he had just moved to New York, and we had a great time catching up.

What kinds of things did you take away from the VISIONS experience?

My favorite part of the VISIONS experience was comunidad (Spanish for “circle time”). This was hard for me at first; opening up to others and accepting constructive criticism. However, I grew to understand and embrace comunidad. I started looking forward to these meetings and accepting the exercises we went through.

What are you up to now?

I am currently a senior at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. I recently studied public health in Buenos Aires, and I am currently on the job hunt! I am hoping to either be in New York or Boston next year, or move back to South America and live there for a year.

Previous to studying abroad, I traveled with my friend in Peru. I was able to visit Urubamba, where I lived with VISIONS, and it was an amazing experience. I went to all of my favorite places in Urubamba (Pizza Wasi, for example) and peeked into the house that VISIONS rents there!

How did your VISIONS experience help to prepare you for where you are now and what’s still to come?

VISIONS helped me become an active listener, take constructive criticism, and accept others despite our differences. It has helped me grow as a person, and it has pushed me to step out of my boundaries and try new things that might make me uncomfortable.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?

That’s the million dollar question! I am currently toying with the idea of pursuing a doctorate in psychology, but I am also considering getting my Master’s. I eventually want to be working in mental health, specifically with an adolescent population. I am also interested in working in the nonprofit sector in an operations role. In 10 years, I hope to have a job that I look forward to every day.

VISIONS in The New York Times