Why did you study abroad in Costa Rica and what experiences affected your life?
In summer of 2011, I was lucky enough to study abroad at the UGA Costa Rica Campus in San Luis. I was a part of the International Studies group, but my focus was on Spanish so I took 9 hours of Spanish courses to contribute to my minor. Although the classes were really great, a lot of my learning and experiences took place outside of the classroom. What was so ideal about this experience was the diversity of our activities. It was perfect for those who love the natural environment, and I have to say that San Luis and the views that it offered were unbelievable. I explored the Montverde rainforest, hiked to a waterfall, went horseback riding, took tours of the local coffee farms, and more. I was also able to see the very contrasting and higher pace of the city of San Jose. This included going to museums, visiting the Inter-American court of Human rights which is based there, and of course experiencing the city's lively discotecas.
Honestly, this was probably hands down the best summer of my life. One of the best parts of the experience was really being able to see the culture and get to know local people through our homestays, campus, and going out in the town. This type of opportunity gives you such a new perspective, and particularly in Costa Rica as they have such a fresh view of life. I think I will always carry the idea of "Pura Vida" with me in everything I do, and that is something I cherish. And of course, rice and beans will always hold a special place in my heart. I really can't even say what I would give to return to San Luis and eat rice and beans, have coffee with my homestay mom, and of course go salsa dancing at Mata e Cana with the whole group. I miss it so much!
What connections did you make while you were abroad?
I can't emphasize enough what an amazing group of people I was able to experience my study abroad with. The trip itself was so wonderful, but the people I was with made it unforgettable. This includes the other UGA students, the professors, the staff on campus, my homestay family, and all of the friends we made during our adventures. It is that unique situation where an unlikely group of people comes together that who have nothing in common with each other except but the fact that they want to experience Costa Rica. I may never have crossed paths with these individuals otherwise back in Athens, but I can now say I have a group of friends that I hope to be in my life for a very long time. That is one of the biggest things I have taken away from my time abroad. Likewise, the people I met in Costa Rica touched my life�I still receive Facebook messages from my homestay hermanita. We got to spend time with such friendly and hospitable people in Costa Rica. I know I will always have a wonderful place to stay when I go back, and that is a great feeling.
Do you have future plans for international travel?
I absolutely want to continue to travel. As my academic and professional interests involve food and hunger issues, I therefore am definitely considering doing more research and outreach on an international scale. Considering that the U.S. food system has become so globalized, it is difficult to fully understand the implications of where our food comes from and how it is distributed without looking beyond our own borders.
Beyond that, I would like to refine my Spanish, so I can more effectively communicate with more Spanish-speaking people, both internationally and in my own country. There of course is no better way to do that than really immersing yourself in the culture of an actual Spanish speaking country.
On a personal level, I no doubt want to continue traveling. There is nothing like the thrill, and child-like awe that can come from being in a new place for the first time. I never want to give that up. I may also pursue a surfing career in Costa Rica, but that has yet to be determined.