Aug. 30, 2017
Kira de Bruyn
Georgia Tech swimming & diving
“Our Stories” is a RamblinWreck.com 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.
* Senior swimmer Kira de Bruyn gives us a first-hand look back at the “Jackets Without Borders” trip to Costa Rica in August 2017.
The first week of August, I traveled with seven Georgia Tech student-athletes and six staff members to Costa Rica to help on a project in partnership with Courts for Kids. Courts for kids is an organization that aims to transform lives through building courts and cultural exchange.
I think that goal was accomplished during our week abroad. Our whole group was greatly impacted by the things we experienced while working on the multi-functional court. We became stronger and sharper.
At our first meeting, they told us our work on the court would be the hardest we would ever work in our life. Honestly, I kind of laughed at the time. This was a group of Division I student-athletes at Georgia Tech, one of the most challenging academic institutes in the nation. Our daily life is hard work. We stay up late working on homework and wake up early to go to morning practice.
On top of that, many of us have previously been on a variety of service trips in the past where we had to do extremely difficult work. But yet, every night, I would go back to my host family and all they did was take one look and immediately say, “Wow, you look tired.”
Although my sport pushes past my limits every day, standing around a pile of rocks and dirt with a shovel in my hand, aggressively mixing to ensure a smooth concrete blend broke me down. My back and my arms ached and the three cups of coffee I drank every day couldn’t keep me awake past 9 p.m.
The trip also threw me into a new team. A team I hadn’t spent everyday training with and building trust with, but a team that helped me work harder and challenge myself every day.
Our team grew stronger together, each day we were able to mix faster and work harder. We worked for each other and for the community, not for ourselves. When a team member needed help, someone was always there, running to offer assistance. When someone needed a break from mixing concrete, the gap was immediately filled.
We learned valuable skills, like adjusting to a new team and a new environment. We faced major language and culture barriers that we worked around, improving our understanding and acceptance of other cultures which allowed us to become more sensitive to the ways of people who don’t do things exactly like we do. We worked on our Spanish, something that forced us to think a lot and learn quickly.
The amazing group of athletes and the community we worked with made this week one of the best experiences of my life. Watching the kid’s excitement as they played on the court at the end of the week made it worth it.
I have so many incredible memories from this trip. Every night I would go home and try to write them all down, and I ended up writing about four or five pages for every day. Being able to interact so much with the community is something I will never forget.
We learned their favorite dances and taught them some of ours. We laughed so hard with the kids as we attempted Spanish and they attempted English. The community shared food and culture and experiences with us that allowed us to see the country in a way that we would never have been able to see as mere tourists.
This trip allowed us to engage with a new culture and grow in a way that you can’t grow in a classroom or through reading articles on the internet and I am so thankful for the opportunity that we had.