Costa Rica News – College students many times use Costa Rica as a destination to take Spanish classes for college credits and experience the culture of the land of “Pura Vida”. Many colleges allow trips to Spanish language schools to count as credits towards graduation. Each student will have a different experience and different story. Like the one below.
The program consisted of nine days in Costa Rica and nine two-hour weekly class sessions for three hours of credit in culture and ecology of Costa Rica.
The trip’s syllabus (or rather itinerary) looked outstanding: nature hikes, ziplining through the Monteverde cloud forest, working on UGA’s carbon offset program, touring local coffee farms, hanging out on the Costa Rican coast and taking surfing lessons.
However, these adventures this past spring break turned out to be only one aspect of the trip’s incredible experience. Just the act of traveling, especially to such a naturally beautiful location, and meeting a broad spectrum of new people, both within and outside our group, gave me an invaluable new perspective.
The 16 students in our group reflected the broad diversity within UGA itself. Encompassing all grade levels and majors, including microbiology, math and romance languages. They hailed from the likes of Kansas, south Georgia, Sri Lanka and Argentina. Our group consisted of a good mix of intelligent UGA students from all walks of life.
We all joined together in a common purpose to soak up everything our action-packed week had to offer and enjoy ourselves as much as possible.
Some mornings we opted to wake up with the sun to milk the dairy cows on the property or go birdwatching on lush mountain trails that offered views that would not have been out of place in Jurassic Park.
Every day we ate delicious local food in the dining hall and set out enthusiastically on our daily activities. One of our main tasks was to work on UGA Costa Rica’s carbon offset program, which plants trees in an effort to recapture the carbon released from the air travel to make the trip to campus “carbon neutral.” Our job was to measure the seedlings in the nursery and record the data so that their progress could be tracked, as well as measuring older trees planted by the program a few years ago.
Understanding UGA Costa Rica’s vision of sustainability and staying in such a progressively sustainable community taught me that environmentally responsible living is not only possible but comfortable and satisfying. It was lovely to leave technology behind and see the stars every night.
The trip afforded us a good balance between work, reflection and play. Even our work immersed in natural beauty, and we played many games of soccer at the eco-lodge. We even hit the town a little further down the mountain, San Luis, to have drinks at a beautiful treehouse restaurant and go dancing.
Our two full days at the beach came closer to a traditional college spring break experience. We swam in the Pacific, got pummeled by waves during surfing lessons, drank daiquiris in the hotel hot tub and enjoyed the carefree beach lifestyle. The meals were outstanding: oysters, mussels, filet mignon wrapped in bacon, squid and Costa Rican beer at beachfront restaurants under palms while mariachi bands serenaded us.
For three credit hours and $500, this invaluable and fabulously fun learning experience gave me a slew of new friends, a more global and environmentally conscious perspective and the feeling that I’d made a difference.
By Anne Maxwell Douglass