“A Thank You that Lasts a Lifetime” from Hannah Van

This blog features IU South Bend’s Student Government Association President, Hannah Van.

Now a Costa Rica study abroad alumna, Van wrote the following letter to thank her scholarship donors.


Dear Julienne and Patrick, 

I hope that all is well with both of you! Although it was just last week we were emailing back and forth, I feel like so much time has passed. Thank you for all the wonderful advice prior to the trip, it was such a wonderful time and I want to share with you a little bit about my experience that you made possible. 

The excursions and resort stays were relaxing and beautiful! Although I enjoyed them a lot, I found myself taking a special interest in spending time with the Ticos and studying the culture. My favorite part of the trip was casually interviewing a wide range of Ticos when time permitted. I learned so much about the current period and the history of the politics, tax system, and entrepreneurship in Costa Rica. It was fascinating to hear the range of opinions supplementing the facts. The discussions often led to interesting things; some in particular stood out. The fact that the economy and living environment of China is so different from Costa Rica’s, yet the history of their political systems are so similar was fascinating to me. The correlation ran up to the Chinese “culture fever” in the 1980’s. The period after Mao’s death developed a movement similar to the movement after the return of Carmin to Costa Rica. I not only learned many things, but it was neat to see how excited the Natives were to share the history. 

It was challenging to seek out individuals who knew or had entrepreneurial experiences. Shop owners at the local stores were the only ones I could really sneak away to talk with. The legal system was brought forward in almost every conversation. I was caught off guard when discussing income and the role that Costa Rican lawyers have. After assessing the surroundings towards the end of the week the reasoning was clear. It was especially exciting to have my final interviews with Gary and Alberto from the Academy. Knowing that they would have good insight on the corporation process, I had prepared many direct questions in advance. I learned a lot from both of them regarding the growth of foreign entrepreneurship.

The most enjoyable 24 hours were spent in Nosarita. Spending our “free” time individually with the locals was amazing. A language barrier was present but that didn’t keep us from communicating. The cook’s granddaughter resembled my appearance and I’m grateful to say they took a special interest in welcoming me. That first night after our soccer game, I stuck around with the cooks and the rest of the young girls. The following morning I woke up a few hours early with the intention to find a native to interact with. I discovered the Nosarita school children and we played on the monkey bars and practiced counting in English. Cynthia saw that I had developed a bond with the Nosarita kids and allowed me to stay back with them while the rest of the group traveled to Belen for other service projects. That day with Jefferson, Jordan, Emily, Marisol, and Rosalinda was a transforming experience! 

I want to thank you for making that experience, all the knowledge gained, and the trip as a whole, possible for me. With your assistance I have been able to learn so much about a wonderful place and expand my understanding of another cultural. It makes me so excited to think that your scholarship does not end with me and will continue to provide opportunity for others to experience the Costa Rica program as well.  I plan to continue my journey with the Costa Rica Program. Not only by reaching out and learning more about the legal system, politics, and entrepreneurial potential, but through giving back to the program as you have done! Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity and being an encouragement to follow the path of giving back.

Sincerely, 

Hannah Van

P.S. I would love to hear more about your experience in the program! What was your favorite part? What was the most fascinating thing you learned?

This ‘Thank You’ was not the last of our relationship. Julie and I continued to email back and forth until I finally made it to Dallas to meet in person. Julie and Patrick welcomed me with open arms to the Dallas community and made sure that I enjoyed my time and had someone if I needed anything. It’s more than a scholarship that I can thank them for. Julie is a role model and a mentor. IU and the South Bend campus needs more Julies to change students’ lives one thoughtful act at a time. Thank you…

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