I remember watching movies or TV shows that showed teens traveling to different countries having this dreamy experience. I was convinced it was fake, mostly because I believed most things on TV were fake. It was not until my adult life that I began to hear more about it and hear people tell their stories and experiences. I finally had the courage to study abroad, but I had absolutely no idea what program suited me or where I would like to go the most. It was not until someone from SFS (The School for Field Studies) came to UTC that I felt so strongly where I wanted to go. It was only a matter of what fit in my summer schedule.
The SFS Costa Rica Summer 2 program “Environmental Justice from the Ground Up” program was the program I chose. It was a month-long program towards the end of summer, and I am glad I chose a month. We lived in a communal living situation, with shared bedrooms, and bathrooms. Meals were provided for us every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I grew up with 3 other sisters and shared a bedroom with two of them for most of my life and that did not prepare me for what was to come. If you enjoy sharing rooms with about 4 people and need no minimal privacy when using the restroom, this program is perfect. I am joking; the living situation was an adjustment but nothing I could not handle.
The program was a field study experience so there were hikes and nature-based experiences. We got to learn about Costa Rica’s water management systems and even had a Bat Night! One of our program staff members is studying bats and he was able to catch a few so that we can see them up close and study them for a night. We had a few overnight field trips, and they were super fun. My favorite field trip was when we stayed in Monteverde, we hiked through a cloud forest, and it was so beautiful. I can’t begin to describe the feeling of peace you get watching the clouds move through the forest and the light reflecting through the clouds. On top of that we got to see how much the climate changes when you are up in the mountains of Costa Rica, the temperature ranged from low 60s to low 70s. That does not sound like much but for the middle of summer, I was shocked and very unprepared. Another highlight about my program was that we saw so much wildlife. We saw white faced monkeys, howler monkeys, snakes, sloths, agoutis, frogs, toucans, and so much more. We would be minding out business and white-faced monkeys would be swinging from tree to tree, going on their merry way. Most hikes took longer than necessary just because we would spot and look at so many different animals. Costa Rica has about 6% of the world’s biodiversity, which does not sound like a lot but considering its land mass, is quite a lot.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to study abroad and to be fortunate enough to experience all that I did. If you are questioning whether you should study abroad or not, do it. Stop questioning if it is worth it or stop telling yourself that you can do it some other time. Because if a pandemic told us anything, the world could shut down and all that you will think about is not taking that leap.
Sabrina Pham (BS SORT Management) spent the Summer 2023 semester studying abroad in Atenas, Costa Rica through The School for Field Studies. Sabrina had the following to say about studying abroad, “Take the leap that scares you the most… Studying abroad will always be worth it.”
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