If you’re a GLA Alum who traveled to Central America in 2018, odds are that you spoke with Travel Coordinators Sydney Baumeister and/or Nadine Hamilton about what to pack, how to book a flight or where to turn in your pre-departure documents before you arrived at your program. At a company as tight-knit as GLA, we love the friendships that often form among coworkers, and these two will go down in history as an efficient professional team, adventurous traveling duo, and currently, in their post-GLA days, co-volunteers in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.
A Chance Meeting in the EduTerra Global Internship
Sydney and Nadine met in 2016 when they were each selected as a part of the new cohort of EduTerra Global Interns (EGI), a group of a dozen recent college grads who learn the ins and outs of running educational programs abroad while living and working in Costa Rica. The old adage “opposites attract” certainly seemed to hold true: where Sydney is outgoing and confident, Nadine is more reserved and introspective. As it turns out, the two have a lot in common. They both describe themselves as adventurous and independent. They quickly bonded and began exploring the far corners Costa Rica and Central America on their days off.
“In our friendship, Nadine is the one that’s always prepared and has done her research. If we do a trip together, Nadine has a homemade snack for the bus or plane AND remembers to brings that one extra thing that everyone else forgets but you need. I’m the friend that forgets something crucial and hasn’t planned a thing (I recognize this is annoying) but is down to do whatever. And I’m lucky to have a friend like Nadine that will share with me. We both are equally and incredibly silly,” Sydney says.
After the first year, the interns enjoyed their time in Costa Rica and their newfound companions so much, they decided to stay on for a second year. They both joined team as full-time Travel Coordinators, helping to prepare travelers and their families for the adventure ahead.
When their second year in Costa Rica drew to a close, Nadine and Sydney parted ways–but not before exploring Cuba together as one last “hurrah.” A passionate Spanish language advocate, Sydney returned to her home state of Minnesota and got a job teaching Spanish in elementary schools. Nadine spent four months in Vietnam, where she earned her TESOL certification and explored Vietnam, Cambodia, and China via motorbike before volunteering as a WWOOF farmer in Northern California redwood country where she learned to milk goats and make cheese.
Nadine, who had been interested in the Peace Corps since her college years, decided that the time was right to apply.
“I knew it was something I wanted to do, but I also wanted to give myself a couple years after university to gain life experience and equip myself with more of the skills needed to be a successful volunteer. Among the reasons that inspired me to apply were mastering Spanish, wanting to plant seeds of growth in the minds of youth, playing a role in youth feeling more capable, confident, and comfortable in their own skin, providing comprehensive and inclusive sexual health education, learning to run impactful youth programs from the planning stages to execution, gaining an understanding of how 90% of the world lives, and leaving a positive and sustainable impact on a community.”
So how did the two come to end up in the same country yet again?
“It’s my fault!” Sydney laughs. “I copied Nadine. We both had chatted about wanting to volunteer [with the Peace Corps] but Nadine applied first to Peace Corps Dominican Republic. After looking at all the positions open I realized that education would be the best fit for me based on my skills and work experience. I knew I wanted a Spanish speaking country but landed on the DR after checking out what was available. Naturally, I submitted my application on the last day of deadline at 11:53pm.”
Reunited! (and it feels so bueno!)
Both agree that their time with GLA helped to steer them on their current path: They liked what they observed through GLA as far as development and incorporating student volunteers into the mix. They loved living abroad in a developing country. They wanted more.
“GLA was the first time I was exposed to sustainable development. I liked that GLA projects were determined based on community feedback and needs and put organizations that were already doing amazing work in the drivers seat. But then also found away for students to be a part of it and serve the community within their skill set and learn. From working for GLA for 2 years in Costa Rica, I knew that I could handle the challenges that come with living abroad, but also that I loved it!”
“My two-year post-college gig with GLA was one of the most eye-opening and life-changing experience I’ve gone through until now. I grew exponentially both personally and professionally and will be forever grateful for my time in Costa Rica. I became fully addicted to living, traveling, and working abroad, and was inspired by meeting so many of GLA’s partner organizations.”
Soon, both women were en route to the Dominican Republic. While they’re still in the intensive, ten-week training phase, to say that Nadine and Sydney are enjoying their assignments is an understatement.
Says Sydney: “LOVE IT. Dominicans are so friendly, warm, and outgoing. During my conversations, people have been so open about their lives and genuine. They recognize that passing and sharing time with others is a priority and are present when they are with you.”
“One of my favorite aspects about the experience so far is how much Peace Corps invests in its trainees and volunteers. Unlike some other organizations who just send “aid” money or material goods to developing countries, Peace Corps sends trained, motivated people as its resources. We live among the people we are serving and at the same standard of living. We integrate into these communities by building relationships, earning their trust and respect, and committing to a full two years there,” Nadine says.
So what’s next? Soon, the two will complete training and join the community in which they will be living for the next two years as official volunteers.
Sydney’s Typical Peace Corps Day
Always wondered what it’s actually like to be a Peace Corps volunteer in training? Get a peek into into a day in the life!
6:30 AM – Wake up, shower
7:00 AM – Breakfast! My host mom Flabia goes all out and I usually have coffee, a fruit batida (smoothie), and then eggs, mangu, or empanadas. Sometimes she gives me grilled cheese for breakfast and I love it.
7:30 AM – Walk to our training center with my fellow PC trainee Hanna. We saludar various friends from the community on our way. My most recent friend and my favorite is this old man named Jose who loves to talk politics.
8:00 AM – Begin charlas (instruction/talk) on various topics: classroom management, how to teach literacy, public speaking, how to plan a lesson, etc.
Noon-2:00 PM – Home for lunch for two whole hours! Flabia spoils me again and serves me the “bandera” which is always rice, a meat, and salad.
2:00 PM – Spanish class! My class does a lot of projects/out-of-classroom work. This past week we gave charlas to 5th and 6th graders on values and violence.
5:00 PM – I usually hang with other trainees for a bit.
6:00 PM – Home for dinner and chill with my host family.
9:00 PM – Bedtime! I’m usually in bed and in my room early because I need my alone time.