Posted: April 20, 2021

“The people that plant a tree knowing they will never enjoy the shade understand the meaning of life.”

March 2nd through the 10th I traveled to Costa Rica during spring break for the ERM499- Costa Rica: Sustainability and Natural Resources embedded course. This course meant a lot to me, both sentimentally and objectively. Though I recognized there are many benefits to studying abroad, when I found out about this particular trip, I knew I had to be a part of it. Prior to starting college, I traveled to Costa Rica for a three-week backpacking trip after taking some time off school. While I was down there my experiences inspired me to return to school. So, upon my return, I immediately began the process to start classes the following fall of 2015. It was only fitting that I end my college career, four years later, by going back to the place where it truly began. However, this time with new eyes, and more of an educational focus.

Sustainability has always been a buzz word with many meanings, but my trip to Costa Rica took those meanings and showed me implemented practices that a country follows as part of their lifestyle. During my travels I saw many examples of individuals who made it their business to uphold sustainable practices. One of our first interactions, and a personal favorite, was installing a biodigester for a farmer. Throughout my classes I learned a lot about what a biodigester in the US looks like, and how they work. At this small farm it was very different. They did not use concrete and expensive equipment to install a monstrous tank and piping. Instead it was simply a large bag and some hoses. The footprint was a fraction of what it would be here in the US. It really showed me these types of things do not always need to be so complex and expensive with a little creativity and improvising. Shown to the left is a picture of a giant boulder that was lifted out of the ditch with some sturdy branches, rope, and team work. This illustrates what is possible when you use a little creativity and improvise with what resources you have.

Overall this trip left me with many incredible experiences and skills. Most importantly it broadened my way of thinking. To be innovative you must think outside of the box, and this trip showed me to think outside of the country. In our country there is a lot of waste and a large focus on aesthetics and material things. There are affordable solutions to being more sustainable. A tour of Earth University's gardens showed me this. All of their strategies utilized practices that repurposed recycled materials and promoted agriculture in small places. They use boots and cut plastic jugs as plant pots, as well as, long plastic bags stacked as a triangle to optimize space taken up by plantings, which is shown in the picture to the right. It fascinated me how different their approach was to less space and materials.

Finally, one of my biggest take aways from this trip is communication. We sat down and had a discussion with students at Earth University about climate change. We all spoke different perspectives, and sympathized with one another. It truly shed light on the complexities each country faces, and how hard it can be to be sustainable, and economical. Yet, there are many younger generations striving to implement new knowledge towards more sustainable solutions. I felt that was something we all could relate to: trying to convince others there are affordable, sustainable options. A student from Columbia said it perfectly, “the people that plant a tree knowing they will never enjoy the shade understand the meaning of life.” This spoke volumes about how our mindsets need to shift to think about the value of the future, rather than just the present.

This trip changed my perspective to see something in nothing. When we see trash, those in Costa Rica see a plant pot, or something to repurpose. Nature provides the tools, we just need to improvise. I was given the opportunity to hike to beautiful waterfalls, eat delicious foods from their culture, learn at their university, and see amazing sites. It was completely breath taking, and will be an experience that resonates with me forever.

International Programs

Address

106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802

International Programs

Address

106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802