Posted: September 2, 2020

I have made new friends and memories that will last a lifetime.

Visiting a waterfall on our hike

Visiting a waterfall on our hike

This spring break I was able to travel to Costa Rica with ERM 499, an embedded course focusing on sustainable agriculture. My name is Cheryl Chuba and I am a senior graduating in May with a bachelors in Agricultural Science and minors in Equine Science and Environmental Inquiry. I had always wanted to study abroad and it wasn't until this year that I really got the chance to experience the world. This was my first time out of the US and I couldn't have asked for a better experience.

The common greeting in Costa Rica is pura vida, which translates to pure life but is commonly used throughout the country similar to how aloha is used in Hawaii. Everybody in Costa Rica was very friendly and greeted us with a happy “Pura Vida" whether we were able to speak the same language or not. I never felt that anybody was not nice to us no matter where we were in the country.

Our week began at EARTH University in Limon Province where we spent time on campus learning from some of their students. The students at EARTH are working to make Costa Rica more sustainable and they also are thinking about how to solve some of the issues they are facing in their home countries. Day one was spent helping a local farmer install a biodigester so that he is able to grow his farm while gaining energy from the waste his animals are producing. Having a biodigester on his farm will provide him with the energy he needs to cook in his house, as well as cook the feed that he will be feeding to his pigs. When we were there he had a few pigs and cattle roaming around, but one day he hopes to have as many as 200 pigs on his farm!

Many of the students at EARTH were from countries all over the world and so they bring different mindsets to the classroom with different issues facing their home countries. They held workshops for us that showed how they grow plants even when there is little space or soil available, recycling methods, and renewable energies. One day we had a panel where students from EARTH joined us and we discussed climate change. It was interesting to hear the different issues that their home countries are facing because of the changes that are occurring and how we can help to combat these changes. I really enjoyed talking with the students at EARTH and learning about their lives both on campus and back home. I believe that in doing this I improved my communication skills. At times it was difficult to understand what was trying to be said due to some language barriers, but we were able to communicate through those.

Lucky for me, my birthday has always fallen over spring break and this year will be really hard to top. The Tuesday of break we went to Cahuita National Park which happens to also include the beach! As we walked to where we were going to swim and hang out there were many Cappocine monkeys who were almost posing for their pictures to be taken. Little did I know but these monkeys would be back to visit us later. It was really nice to have a day to be able to relax some and just enjoy the sun and water which was warm and really blue. As a few of us were sitting on the beach one of those monkeys came right up and grabbed one of the girl's empty pistachio shells and ran away with them. Unfortunately, he was not happy with empty pistachio shells so he came back and took my whole bag of cool ranch Doritos! I couldn't even be mad at that point, it was too funny and now every time I eat Doritos I will think of the monkey that stole them in Costa Rica.

After leaving EARTH University we headed to the Arenal volcano area, which is much more touristy than where we were while staying on EARTH's campus. While here we went on many hikes to waterfalls, around the volcano, visited some hot springs, and toured a chocolate farm. Although visiting the hot springs was one of my favorite activities there, it was eye opening how much of a different experience you get being in a tourist town versus being elsewhere in the country. I think it is very important to see this, and especially since our trip was educational that we were able to visit areas that are not basing their income on tourist activities.

Visiting Costa Rica was an amazing trip and I could not have asked for a better group for my first time traveling internationally. I have made new friends and memories that will last a lifetime. If I am ever presented with the opportunity to go back to Costa Rica, I will not hesitate before answering YES!

International Programs

Address

106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802

International Programs

Address

106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802