Rebecca stands inside the buttress roots of a tree in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica.
Overseas Study Program
Monteverde, Costa Rica
Rebecca’s major: Environmental Sience
Year abroad: Fall 2009
Reason you chose this program: I was looking for a program that included a Spanish Component and allowed me to take science classes at a 300 level. This progeam fit the bill.
Favorite classes: Humans in the Tropics. We would spend a day visiting various sectors of the economy in Costa Rica (Livestock, Coffee, Eco-tourism, Pineapples) and discussing the impact of different practices on the environment and on people's lives. On these days, we always got a chance to talk to locals, and there were often great activites, like milking cows, grinding coffee and zip-lining.
Describe the housing situation: We stayed in tents, lodges, biological stations, cabins, homestays and hostels.
Best memory: A great memory of the trip was drinking water straight from the streams. The areas we hiked to were so pure that we could literally drink straight from a waterfall or from a stream without having to worry about diseases. It was amazing to see what almost "untouched" nature looked like. Going without indoor plumbing was more than worth it -- seeing pure nature.
Greatest challenge: Keeping a perspective that this experience was about school. We would spend 2-2 ½ weeks in field study, so it was hard to remember that as soon as we got back we would be tested on what we had learned. Sometimes it seemed like vacation because we were hiking and doing cool activities, but you have to take good notes.
Experience with culure shock or reverse culture shock: The most difficult culture shock and reverse culture shock was the absence and reintroduction of my cell phone. At first, it was very weird not to say-I'll text/call you when I get there. But after a while, it was so much easier not to have a cell phone. If a group from the program was meeting up at night, we would just let each other know, often times via the people who lived in the town. When I came home, I was overwhelmed by the amount of texting, calling, facebooking, emailing, etc that was needed to meet up with a group of friends.
Going abroad vs. staying on campus: I learned more from my classes in a semester going abroad than I've learned in my whole time at IU. The classes were deeper and seemed to never end. We traveled and lived with our professors, so at night, they would call us over to look at bats, or we could go and ask them a question from lecture. I really got to know them on multiple levels.
What I wish I knew before I left: I wish I knew how to salsa! We would go out dancing, and Tico boys would ask you to dance, but if you didn't know how to salsa, it was embarrassing.
Fact about your host country that you think people would be surprised to learn: The saying “Pura Vida” is not just for tourists, it really is the philosophy of how people think about life.