Student travels to Costa Rica and Nicaragua after high school


Teachers, students and their families celebrated their graduation from Cherry Hill High School East in a ceremony in the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia Monday, June 18th.

The normal, and sometimes expected, step after high school graduation is to continue education by attending college. Hopes of getting into the college of their dreams is why high school students put in hours of studying, homework, and extracurricular activities every single day.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 65.9 percent of students in the United States who completed high school will immediately enroll in college for the following fall semester. That adds up to about 20.2 million U.S. students attending universities and colleges in the fall of 2015.

One student, part of the minority of students who chose not to attend college after graduation, is East alumni Mat Stout (‘15). After graduation, Stout travelled to Costa Rica and Nicaragua to continue his education in an unorthodox way.

“I knew that I didn’t want to go to college [even] before the beginning of my senior year. I knew that I wanted to do some type of travel or volunteer work,” said Stout.

Stout’s journey started in July. His first destination was a farm in Costa Rica. He paid for his travel expenses and leisure activities. Once he arrived at the farm, he worked in exchange for free food and board. The farm produced crops such as coffee and pineapple.

Stout worked with other volunteers from all over the world. The majority of the other volunteers were in their mid-20s and right out of college.

“I met families who quit their jobs and sold their houses and took their kids and are just traveling,” said Stout.  

One month later, Stout went to a hostel in the jungles of Costa Rica, where he stayed for another month. His main task at the hostel was to clean and prepare for new guests.

The next destination for Stout was Nicaragua for three weeks. This location was different than the first two, Stout stayed in a home with a Spanish speaking family. He took Spanish classes for four hours a day and also volunteered at a Spanish speaking school as a student aid.

Stout said, “The schools there were really sad because it [is] one of the poorest countries [in the world]. They literally didn’t have water, they would stick their head under a big gallon outside. The kids don’t raise their hands and they’re not calm. They can just run around and leave.”

Stout is currently in the process of planning another trip, possibly to Europe.

“I don’t really want to go to a college because I feel like you [can] learn so much more by spending less [money],” said Stout.