By Jesse Cape, Costa Rica Staff 2023
Hola! My name is Jesse Cape and I graduated from Auburn University in 2022. I served as the medical director in 2022 and the program director in 2023 for the PRO Costa Rica Program with LeadAbroad, and I loved the experience so much that I will be serving as the health and safety advisor in Cape Town this summer!
I have always been extremely passionate about travel and medicine, but I always thought of these two interests as two separate career paths. My obsession with living abroad started in spring 2020 when I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, where I had the absolute best experience and fell in love with the unknown of each day abroad. Sadly, our time was cut short due to the pandemic, but this only gave me more drive to get abroad again.
This sparked my interest in working for Auburn’s study abroad program and serving as president of Global Tigers Association, where I connected with exchange students from all over the world. I knew once I graduated that I needed to spend a year abroad before starting my medical career, but I had no idea how impactful this experience would be on my life.
A week after graduating, I hopped on a plane to Costa Rica to serve as the medical director. This was the most responsibility I had ever been given and it felt so natural. I loved mentoring students and watching them experience eye opening moments. I fell in love with serving the community through medical outreach while using my knowledge of Spanish and medicine.
After having this life changing experience, I went to work in Vail, Colorado for the summer in an orthopedic clinic and I quickly realized how much more I enjoyed working in Costa Rica. Both places were beautiful and I valued my experience in both places, but I missed how appreciative and charismatic the patients in Costa Rica were. I thought about going to medical school abroad, but I didn’t know what that truly meant. All I knew was I wanted to practice Spanish more, and I did not want to be in the USA.
In the fall, I achieved my goal of returning to Spain, this time to work as an elementary science teacher in Sevilla, Spain. I loved traveling around Europe every weekend and exploring Sevilla during the week. I made lifelong friendships and found so many amazing places that actually took my breath away. I left Spain in May to return to Costa Rica, this time serving as the program director.
With the most amazing staff and vendors in Costa Rica, we were able to provide medical care to hundreds of locals while teaching countless LeadAbroad students about the importance of this work. Seeing students give their first injection or diagnose their first patient correctly brought so much warmth into my life.
I loved getting to know these students’ stories and hearing their “why” behind their medical journeys.
Working for the pro Costa Rica program, I was able to build my confidence in Spanish and medicine and realized that providing care to underserved populations was what I am called to do. After many interviews and a very stressful application process, I accepted a spot in the medical school in Ponce, Puerto Rico that is truly bilingual and will allow me to continue practicing Spanish while getting an MD degree that I can use to practice in the United States (if I ever choose to return). Without my experience with LeadAbroad, I would have never even had the confidence in my abilities to apply to medical schools outside of the continental US.
I am so thankful for my time with LeadAbroad to be able to use my interests and passions and turn them into my purpose. Through LeadAbroad lessons, adventures, service and stepping out of my comfort zone, going abroad with LeadAbroad is the perfect time to explore your purpose and I hope everyone going abroad this summer is able to have a similar experience.
I am so beyond excited to be able to continue my LeadAbroad journey in Cape Town this summer. My eyes fill with tears as I write this because I am just so thankful for the impact that LeadAbroad has had on my life, and I hope I can impact students this summer in the same way!