My study abroad experience was (mostly) in Monteverde, Costa Rica studying Sustainability for the Tropics. The first half of this course focused on visiting energy production sites in the San Jose and Cartago area, like local windmills and a hydro-electric dam, listening to experts speak on their work, and studying the material in lecture style classes. Half-way through, this course changed to adopt a hands-on approach that lead to students learning about local environmental problems, designing solutions, and implementing some of these solutions in the community. For instance, we learned of the lack of recycling systems in Monteverde, then measured a bull arena that one of our professors wanted to convert to a recycling distribution center, compiled the data to find the feasibility and efficiency of the proposed plan, and created PowerPoints to display this data in an official proposal for the municipality. In another project we learned of the biological processes involved in composting organic material, calculated the potential reduction in landfilled waste if Monteverde composted, and did hands-on composting work at the piolet project.

Intriguing as the work was, the non-scholastic aspects are what I smile to look back on. We began our trip near Cartago, a non-touristic Costa Rican town. One of my favorite experiences here was being set loose on the city with 5,000 colones each at lunch time. Knowing the little Spanish that we did, my group had to find and order lunch. While staying under budget, we accidentally ordered a table filled with food. Another great experience occurred a few days later: on my 19th birthday, my new friends (whom I had known for less than a week) surprised me by taking me to a 90’s punk rock (one of my favorite genres) bar and highlighted the quality of relationships on this study abroad trip. The climate in Monteverde, where we hiked through a cloud forest, could buy fresh mangoes at the farmer’s market, and met three sloths (two of which were mother and child), was also memorable.  Finally, I loved the study center at Monteverde; we had a full kitchen, a beautiful lounge with plenty of windows to the tropical life outside, and many hammocks, making the trip feel like a retreat.

Caelan Shurina is working on an Integrated Studies major with a minor in Public Administration/Non-Profit. She spent Summer 2018 studying Sustainability and the Environment in Monteverde, Costa Rica through CIEE. Caelan had the following to say about her time abroad, “Studying abroad is the perfect chance to change your life; by seeing the world, you can think bigger than ever before. Never been outside of the country? Want to go somewhere strange? Can’t afford to study abroad? Those reasons just make you an ever-better candidate for the full-scholarships for your dream trip.”

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