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Spring Break in beautiful Costa Rica: Victoria Berger – ERM Major, Environmental Soil Science and Watersheds and Water Resources Minors

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Posted: April 23, 2013

Costa Rica was the greenest, most beautiful place I have ever seen. Nine days in this picturesque country was just not long enough.
La Paz Waterfall

La Paz Waterfall

As Spring Break approached, I found myself getting increasingly more and more excited about my trip to Costa Rica, even though I had no idea what to expect.  At the beginning of the school year, I had decided to partake in ERM 499A: Costa Rica Study Tour.  I had never been outside of the country and was itching to experience new places, people, and cultures.  Finally the day arrived to leave and after many hours of travel, we finally landed in San Jose.  We stepped outside and were immediately blasted with a wave of heat, much different than the wintery temperatures of Pennsylvania.

On our drive to EARTH University, the sites were incredible.  The native species of plants that draped over the landscape that comprised of waves of mountains were ones many only see on television or in magazines.  We drove through the cloud forest and stopped for lunch along the way.  That first meal was phenomenal, and I couldn’t wait to taste more!  That very first day, we saw sloths high up in the treetops, and that night I went to bed hoping for a good night’s sleep only awoken in early morning to the craziest of bird calls. 

At EARTH University, we hiked through the campus’s nature reserve, gawking at the wildlife that crawled between the forest floor and canopy.  We also toured their sustainable integrated dairy farm, paying much attention to the biodigestor, which is used to trap gas from wastes that is used to cook their food in the cafeteria on campus.  The medicinal and botanical gardens offered many opportunities to learn about the native plants that inhabited Costa Rica.  The tour of the banana plantation and packing plant was informative and interesting.  A solar energy workshop was completed after we viewed how the campus recycles and manages its waste.  A periurban agriculture exhibit was shown to us to demonstrate how plants and crops can be grown in small places using everyday materials.

BergerCR2.pngThroughout our time at EARTH, we were exposed to other cultures by viewing multiple performances by students from their native countries.  In addition to that, we were exposed to Costa Rican culture the day we visited farmers that were affiliated with the association of Agro ecotourism de la Argentina.  Our group was divided into groups of three or four, dropped off at a host family’s home, and picked up around six hours later.  I was paired with two other girls, and we visited a man named Eladio Chinchilla.  Eladio spoke no English whatsoever.  He showed us his home, cattle, pigs, pet raccoon, and coffee plants, all while hiking a giant loop around his property of 53 hectares!  Communication was difficult being that only one of us knew how to speak a decent amount of Spanish.  Despite this, the three of us did have lots of fun that day.

This trip didn’t just consist of all work and no play.  We were able to hike Poas Volcano and view the lagoon that formed higher in the landscape.  At the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, there was a small zoo with birds, big cats, monkeys, sloths, frogs, and snakes.  We proceeded to walk to the La Paz Waterfall taking tons of pictures along the way.  We spent a night in San Jose and the next morning we left for Jaco where the beach awaited us.  Before hitting up the beach, we got to see tons of crocodiles that congregated near a bridge, as well as went zip lining!  The view from the lines was stunning.  The beach provided some relaxing time, and before we knew it, it was time to come back to the cold of Pennsylvania.

All in all, I loved my time spent in Costa Rica and I am forever gratefully I got to partake in this study tour.  I got to bond with my classmates, chaperones, and tour guides.  I also took part in many activities and saw sights tourists will never get to see.  I learned so much in the nine days I spent there and often find myself wanting to go back.  I truly do believe that I will never be the same person before visiting the magnificence of Costa Rica.