ERM 499A: Spring Break in Costa Rica!

Posted: March 22, 2013

One of Frank's friends from ERM, Emily Bachner, shares her experiences from ERM 499A, an embedded study abroad course to Costa Rica.

I heard about the ERM Costa Rica trip before I had even been accepted to Penn State. Having the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica during spring break as part of the embedded course for ERM 499A sounded great--I would have just enough time to fully experience the country without losing valuable time in the summer for work experience.


So early on during my junior year here, I signed up! The first day of class this semester got me so excited! I learned we were going to be investigating ecotourism, waste management, sustainable agriculture, natural resource protection, and similar things that have interested me for years.


Before I knew it, spring break came around and my fellow ERM students and I headed for Central America! Costa Rica is actually one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, having some of the planet’s most interesting plants and animals, and I could sure tell. While there, we visited EARTH University, a university that centers on sustainability in the humid tropics by teaching their students practical methods of sustainable farming, urban gardening, and many other practices that they can bring back to their home countries. 


We tried local cuisine, such as gallo de pinto, a rice and bean dish with cilantro typically eaten for breakfast, and piña con arroz, a pineapple juice drink.


I got to see the most beautiful parts of Costa Rica in hikes: we went through the rainforest, climbed a volcano, and explored a waterfall garden. During these hikes I saw so many animals: bright and colorful birds, sloths, howler and spider monkeys, huge iguanas, and more. Volcano Poaz was also amazing--it has a huge crater with a lake in the middle that gets covered by clouds by midday. Watching the clouds roll in as I hiked around the surrounding rainforests was one of the coolest moments of the trip. We had so many awesome experiences like that, my favorite being zip lining over the rainforest. We took a half-hour tram ride up a mountain and rode ten lines down it. They were about 1,000 feet over the trees of the rainforest! Looking west I could see the Pacific Ocean, and to the east I could see the rainforest filled to the brim of green plants, beautiful butterflies, and bright birds.


My trip to Costa Rica was one of the best experiences of my life. In the eight days I was in Costa Rica I learned more about sustainability and the environment than I could ever have in a full semester of regular class. Seeing the beauty of the wildlife and the dedication of the students who studied at EARTH, my respect for nature and desire to protect it were renewed.