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Back to High School! Costa Rica Trip Part 2: Thesis Research

Posted: July 18, 2012

You may not think that college students get too excited about going back to high school, but the two additional weeks I had in Costa Rica were plenty exciting, as I got to do research at local agricultural high schools.
After 6 weeks with my wonderful host family, I learned plenty of Spanish and gained a new international home.

After 6 weeks with my wonderful host family, I learned plenty of Spanish and gained a new international home.

As the rest of my Penn State group departed for their U.S. homes, I returned to my home in Turrialba to spend two more weeks researching local agricultural education systems. As a student in the Schreyer Honors College, I am expected to complete an undergraduate thesis that focuses on either my major or one of my minors. So when a funding opportunity arose for summer research abroad, I worked with my academic adviser and Spanish for the Ag Sciences professor to develop a proposal for research that involves my major and two of my minors!

The title of my research is “A Descriptive Study of Secondary Agricultural Education Systems in Turrialba, Costa Rica.” This basically means that we looked for local high schools that had ag classes where I could observe and talk with teachers and students. I was so fortunate to find two schools. My host sister is a student at a local bilingual high school that has an agriculture program. The second school is a technical high school with three “specialty” majors in agriculture and three student farm sites for experiential learning—it was so cool!

This wonderful opportunity was funded by a grant from The Office of International Programs to help me pursue a minor in International Agriculture. I had also received financial support from a College of Ag Sciences travel scholarship and some funding from the Schreyer Honors College for the trip. The experience was wonderful as I met cool high school students, learned about Costa Rican agriculture, and got a head start on my thesis! Plus, I was forced to improve my Spanish by interviewing Costa Rican teachers and students.

After six weeks in the gorgeous and friendly country, I tearfully departed my host family and the friends I had made, drank my last cup of authentic Costa Rican coffee, and hopped on the plane to come home. When asked about my favorite part of Costa Rica, I never have a one-word response. Mainly because it’s true—the best part of Costa Rica is: the food, the people, the wildlife, the culture, the coffee, the language, and the food (it’s really good, trust me). My six-week trip to Costa Rica was definitely one of the best experiences of my life and I thank the College of Ag Sciences for the opportunity!