July 13, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. - Just try and keep up with Marissa Kastanek.
The summer break for most student-athletes is generally a time to take a step back from competition and school work. A time to relax and take a vacation to the beach with family and friends.
However, a rising senior on the NC State women's basketball team, Kastanek has a different take on her break from books and basketball.
Just a few days after the spring semester ended in early May, the Lincoln, Neb., native took a trip to Costa Rica with the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, an organization devoted to recruiting and training outstanding high school students toward becoming teachers for the North Carolina school system.
The focus of the trip was to teach cultural emersion to a group of college students made up from a variety of state universities around North Carolina, including NC State, Appalachian State, UNC Asheville, East Carolina and North Carolina.
"This study abroad class was about helping these future teachers learn how to handle students that are different than them and how to communicate with them in different ways," explained Kastanek.
"Only three of us on the trip knew how to speak spanish - two spanish teachers and myself."
Kastanek was the only non-teaching fellow on the trip, but will receive three credits towards her NC State degree for her 10-day experience in Costa Rica.
Having already visited Mexico last October when she played for Team USA in the Pan American Games, Kastanek has already experienced a variety of different cultures, but that doesn't mean she didn't take away a lot from her Central America experience .
"It was very interesting to see the difference between Costa Rican cultures and American cultures," said Kastanek. "On one sense were all humans and have the same basic needs, but at the same time there are certain things that we value here that someone in Costa Rica doesn't put much value towards, and vice versa.
"To them time is important but its not the end-all, be-all. You can be 15 minutes late and everything is fine. It's not something that's going to ruin your day or get you fired from your job."
The country's motto is "Pura Vida" or pure life. The easy living is something that really resonated with the Wolfpack shooting guard.
"If someone needs help, you drop what your doing and help a neighbor, because that neighbor is going to help you the next time.
"It opened up my eyes how you can live differently but still live here (in the United States). I can be more open to helping people. I don't have to put some much emphasis on the grind of every day life."
Mind you this comes from an Academic All-America student-athlete that has a 4.0 grade-point-average with a major in psychology and not one, not two, but three minors in coaching, spanish and sports science.
"I can take the stress out of it (life) and still be ok."
Since returning to the states she went back home to visit her family in her native state of Nebraska, and is now incredibly busy juggling two classes, working within the athletics department at The Montessori School of Raleigh and also with a physical therapist as part of her sports science minor.
"At the Montessori school I'm helping the Athletic Director on an upcoming golf tournament with fund raising, donations and sponsorships , and also adding schedules to their website," Kastanek said.
"And with the physical therapist I need 30 hours of practical experience for my minor. I observe, assist with writing measurements and demonstrate exercises for patients."
The two-time All-ACC honorable mention is also going through off-season conditioning drills and playing pick-up basketball with her teammates just about every day.
Trying to keep up a schedule like this seems just about impossible, but Kastanek would have it no other way.