I’ve always had a love for traveling. Being daughter to a navy man, I grew up living all over the world, never residing in a single place for more than a few years. Even though the world is vast, I’ve always had an overwhelming desire to leave my mark upon it. Because of this, I am a Biology major with a passion for the natural world.

If you’re a science major like me and doubting whether you can study abroad, never fear! There are so many options out there. It was important for me to find a study abroad program suited to my future career goals, one that fit my love for nature and animals. That is why I chose to study abroad in Costa Rica, where I could learn both Biology and Spanish in one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. I chose CIEE’s Tropical Ecology and Conservation program because it was more field-based and hands-on, with an independent research project and extensive field trips across both coasts of Costa Rica and into Panama. It is unbelievably rewarding to learn about ecology and biology actually outside in the environments you are learning about—backpacking through untouched primary forests, snorkeling over coral reefs, and studying tropical animals like the two-toed sloth or Spider monkeys as they actually move above you in the trees.

If there’s any desire within you to study abroad (even if it is a very unsure, hesitant one), do it! Push any insecurities and doubts you have aside for this experience, because I can bet you will not regret it. If it’s academic/major conflicts getting in your way, visit the study abroad office and talk to your advisors to brainstorm possibilities. I promise there is a good program out there to fit your major and your career goals. If the price of studying abroad looks daunting, don’t worry—the study abroad office has several scholarships to offer, and you could potentially get most (if not all) of the cost paid for. And if it’s the idea of going off to another country on your own that is holding you back, I assure you won’t regret stepping out of your comfort zone.

Ultimately, I will miss so many things about this beautiful country. The scenery—waking up to the clouds forming around me in the mountains of Monteverde and the sound of exotic birds and Howler monkeys. The amazing food—I could eat their beans, rice, and plantains for every single meal for the rest of my life and die happy. The people— everyone in Costa Rica is as they say ‘pura vida’ or ‘pure life.’ They are happy, friendly, easy-going, and simply living life to the fullest.

This has been one of the most valuable experiences of my life, and I will always hold Costa Rica dear to my heart. The opportunity to study and have adventures in a beautiful new place is right at your fingertips, do not miss it!

Mallory Barbier is majoring in Biology (pre-professional) with a minor in Spanish. She spent a semester studying Tropical Ecology and Conservation in Monteverde, Costa Rica through CIEE. Mallory had the following to say about her time abroad, “Studying abroad in Costa Rica was truly life-changing. Everyday was like paradise, and through this experience, I was able to do things I’ve never dreamed of, such as snorkeling in clear blue water with turtles, stingrays, squid, and barracuda below me and helping a 1,000 pound leatherback turtle lay her eggs. I even grew accustomed to the sight of monkeys swinging overhead. Absolutely unforgettable.”

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