The world is my oyster. As a person who likes traveling, I feel very fortunate to attend one of the many Travel Study Abroad programs that Bellevue College offers to Costa Rica during the Spring Break.
I understand that studying abroad might not be affordable for everyone, but I strongly encourage anyone who is able to to try it at least once. Students can access many scholarships to help make studying abroad more accessible. Thankfully, I received a scholarship from the Student Environmental Sustainability Fund (SESF) at BC; therefore, I did not have to pay for the trip and the Global Wellness course that took place during with the trip.
I had an incredible time in Costa Rica with the other 10 students who took part in the program, along with the two instructors, Peter Prescott and Raymond Butler, who co-taught the Global Wellness Explorations class.
I was eager to go on this study-abroad trip even before my finals. My final exams were scheduled on the day before the trip to Costa Rica started, which worked well for me. I forgot all the stress from the past quarter during the trip.
On the first day, we arrived in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, and stayed there for a night. It was windy and cool at the time we arrived, and I thought the temperature would be similar to that during our entire stay in Costa Rica. I soon realized that I was very wrong; it was hot and sunny on the second day when we went to Tortuguero in north-eastern Costa Rica, next to the Caribbean Sea.
Tortuguero is a small town on the coast of Costa Rica. People can reach Tortuguero by plane or boat. We took a boat after a four-hour drive from San Jose. While on the boat, we saw the typical tropical forest on both sides, and even saw a crocodile lying on a branch that fell from a tree.
Our tour guide told us that many Costa Ricans did not realize the importance of protecting the environment earlier in the last century. People cut down many trees in that forest until they realized that the forest and the land are gifts from nature. Additionally, Costa Ricans saw the economic boom that tourism had brought to their country; therefore, they decided to establish laws that would protect their environment for years to come.
We spent two spectacular nights in Tortuguero. We saw many different animal species in the rain forest and even around our hotel. At night, I played Werewolf, a party game, with the other students who came on the trip. I feel like we became good friends after a short period of hanging out together.
Tortuguero is incredibly small; I walked from one end to the other in about 10 minutes. However, this small size brings all of Tortuguero’s residents together. Everyone knows each other. I could hear people greeting and saying “pura vida,” meaning pure life. Although the people there may not be wealthy, they are happy, enjoying the bounty of the natural world surrounding them.
After Tortuguero, we took another boat and sailed for about two hours to Arenal, where we had a night hike, a coffee presentation and a hot springs visit. My favorite activity that day was the night hike. I got to see many tropical species that I have never seen before, and I appreciated that natural beauty I can hardly find in a busy city.
On the second to last day in Costa Rica, I rode a horse for the first time. It was amazing being surrounded by nature and do something adventurous. Then, I kayaked on the lake next to a volcano in Arenal. It was a gorgeous view from the lake.
On the last day in Costa Rica, I went ziplining in Monteverde. I had also never ziplined before, but I did not fear anything. It was a bit cold that day, different from the other areas in Costa Rica. Our tour guide Seidy told us that Monteverde can get a bit cool and cozy in the summer.
Our Costa Rican adventure ended on Mar. 28, but many other adventures await in the future. The world is your oyster, and it tells you many things that you cannot find in books. I had a fantastic time studying abroad in Costa Rica, learning their culture, wellness and sustainability. I came back richer in knowledge and with a different perspective from another country.
I encourage everyone to participate in some study abroad programs that BC provides if their economic situations allow. It is a really good way to broaden your horizon and make new connections. For information about studying abroad, please visit https://www.bellevuecollege.edu/studyabroad/ to find your favorite destination.