The summer of 2023 I spent in Costa Rica, primarily in Atenas, but visited other places around the country. I enjoyed my stay visiting and learning with the School for Field Studies (SFS) for my month-long program. The living arrangements at the center were communal living with four beds per room (two bunk beds). We also each had a desk area and a small closet space for our items. The bathrooms at the center were also communal, there were two bathrooms, one male and one female, that had three toilet, three sinks, and five showers. There were 32 students staying at the center for the duration of the trip so there were times when areas were crammed. At the center, there was also no hot water and air conditioning was in only two rooms, one classroom and the computer lab. While all of this may seem rather unenjoyable, the discomfort was easy to get used to. I learned to love a cool shower after being in the field all day and almost every night, my roommates and I would stay up talking and laughing. I learned a lot about myself and my interactions with the environment, and how drastically different they were when while I was in Costa Rica, compared to being in the United States.
One major cultural difference that stuck with me was the importance of community in Costa Rica. Growing up in the United States, we are taught a very individualistic lifestyle, that to grow and be better, everything is a competition. However, in Costa Rica people band together to fix problems that they see around them, whether that be laws they feel are unjust, lack of security of a resource, or helping one another in times of tragedy. The professors for our program introduced us to many organizations and individuals that had seen a particular problem in their community and looked for a solution. One particular problem that was a running theme for our program was access to clean and potable water for community members. Despite there being governmental programs in place to ensure water access, many communities were still without. As a result, many communities began forming ASADAs, community-based water management offices. This is significant because all but two employees for most ASADAs were volunteer based positions. This shows the dedication and loyalty these people have for their communities.
I found that my study abroad experience had met and exceeded all my expectations. I would recommend studying aboard to anyone with the ability and desire to do so. I would love to travel back to the Costa Rica and eventually other places around the world with or without study abroad, however, my experience with study abroad allowed me a better understanding of the culture and people of the country.
Payton Warren (BS Environmental Science) spent the Summer 2023 semester studying abroad in Atenas, Costa Rica through The School for Field Studies. Payton had the following to say about studying abroad, “Studying abroad was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I learned so much about myself and the world I never imagined living in the US. I met so many incredible people that I will remember for the rest of my life. I recommend studying abroad to everyone I meet.“
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