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Our Stories: Joonas Koski

Joonas Koski
Georgia Tech swimming & diving

“Our Stories" is a feature that provides first-person stories from current Georgia Tech student-athletes on their journey through academics, competition and life once their athletic careers are over. These young men and women represent the ideals of what it means to be a STUDENT-athlete at Georgia Tech. These are their stories.

*Sophomore swimmer Joonas Koski gives us another first-hand look back at the “Jackets Without Borders” trip to Costa Rica in August 2017.

When I decided to attend the “Jackets Without Borders” trip, I did not know what to expect. In fact, although I was excited to travel to a new country, I was very nervous. I did not know what the situation would be like, and I did not know many people in our group. I had never gone on service trip before, so I had nothing to familiarize myself with what was to come. However, I am glad that this trip through Courts for Kids was my first. After going on this trip, it is safe to say that it completely blew me away and was better than I could have ever imagined. I thought I was going on this trip to help other people, but I believe the people of Costa Rica helped me more than I helped them. They changed my life, opened my mind to a beautiful culture, and gave me lifelong friendships.

I remember after the first day of work, my body was completely broken down. I came into Costa Rica thinking the physical part of the work would be a breeze. After all, we are all athletes. I soon realized how wrong I was. It made me realize that some people do this as a job all day every day, and it was one of the many things that made me count my blessings. Every night I would fall asleep almost immediately when I went to bed. This was something I had never experienced before. I drank coffee for the sole purpose so that I could stay awake during the day. Although it was hard, working together with the locals and other Georgia tech athletes and staff was incredibly fun. Whether it be a baseball player, track runner, swimmer, academic advisor, or a local, we all worked together as one team. It was amazing to see two completely different groups of people come together and team up to create something amazing for a very deserving community.

Whether it was working long hours under the sun, touring the city, or sightseeing a volcano, I loved every part of this trip. The reason that this trip was so great was not the stuff I did, but rather the people I connected with, people that I never knew I could form such a strong connection with. I was incredibly lucky to be able to speak the native language, and I enjoyed talking to the natives and learning about their culture through their own language. Interacting with the students was awesome, and they were always so happy to talk to us. They were super eager to practice their English with us, and I was eager to practice my Spanish, so talking with them was always fun. They welcomed us with open arms and taught us about their way of life. My host family is now like a second family to me, and I miss our 2-hour conversations after dinner each night. I am still in contact with them and talk with them multiple times per week. The kindness and welcoming that we received is something that I will never forget, and it has helped me improve myself as a person.

I learned about a new country and culture, and for that I am forever grateful. Although we were there for only one week, we took away memories that will stay with us forever. I will always remember the generosity and kindness that the Costa Rican people showed us. It inspired me to be a better person and spread kindness to everyone that I interact with.


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