Bahareh Sharafi, a junior majoring in health and society, has always had an interest in learning the Spanish language. When she heard that the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence was offering a new study abroad program in Costa Rica, she couldn’t wait to immerse herself in a culture she has been studying for years.
“I am interested in understanding the mindsets of people in different countries who are creating stable and functioning societies,” says Sharafi, who participated in the first cohort of the Socially Responsible & Ethical Student Leadership program in June 2018.
During her month in Costa Rica, Sharafi soaked up the country’s many natural wonders, including its tranquil beaches and majestic volcanoes. But her most cherished experiences had little to do with the popular tourist sites.
“My most memorable moment in Costa Rica was when the entire group came together for our last meal at the end of the trip,” Sharafi says. “I was looking around and truly appreciating every single person in that room. It was the people who shaped my experience.”
Of all the lessons she learned abroad, Sharafi’s biggest takeaway came from her experiences working alongside local environmental conservation group leaders and community members.
“I believe this experience has served as a catalyst for me to become a better leader,” Sharafi says. “I have grown to allow myself to give power to others for that is what true leadership encompasses.”