By: Debbie Prince
Beyond the books, outside the classroom and off campus, students are learning methods of technological change. This learning experience in Costa Rica is one of the many study abroad opportunities offered through Texas A&M University.
Beth Alexis, Sidney Hammond and Shiloh Perry are just three of the students who participated in the Costa Rica study abroad class in January, led by Dr. Kim Dooley, and Dr. James Lindner, through the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications Department.
The study abroad class was for two weeks and was primarily located at the Soltis Center for Research and Education in San Isidro, Costa Rica.
“People should definitely consider doing a study abroad,” Alexis said. “It’s such a rich experience as far as education and life.”
The students visited a coffee farm, dairy farm and hiked through the rainforest. In addition to the learning activities, students also had time to zip line, repel down a wall and ride horses down the side of a volcano.
Hammond said the trip allowed students the opportunity to participate in a lot of hands-on learning opportunities and a trip to a local dairy farm was an eye opening experience for her.
“I took dairy science last semester so I thought I knew what a dairy farm was,” Hammond laughed, “But I didn’t.”
Hammond said the dairy farm they toured was a house owned by a man and his wife, who was six months pregnant, and their two children. The farm had five cows that were milked every day. After the milk was collected the couple would go into their kitchen, cook the milk and make cheese and yogurt. Students were able to help make the cheese and yogurt and then were able to purchase the items from the family.
“It was so amazing to see just this man and woman making something that I thought could only be done in a factory,” Hammond said.
Those on the trip were able to experience farming and adventures that you wouldn’t get by sitting in a classroom for a semester, Alexis said. While touring a coffee farm the students were able to pull down cocoa pods and eat around the bean. They got to taste a roasted cocoa bean and ice cream fruit, but those were not the most unusual thing they ate, Alexis said.
“We ate termites,” Alexis said while laughing, “We just stuck our finger up in a tree and ate them [the termites].”
“There were just so many things I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t gone there,” Alexis said.
Coursework in Costa Rica may be a different experience culturally than a typical classroom and out of your comfort zone, but Perry said don’t be afraid.
“It’s OK to experience stuff that you’ve never experienced before and it is fun,” Perry said.
Though what she learned may not have been from a book, Perry said she feels as if she learned a lot more about herself, how she sees the world and how she can better herself to better the world.
“There is so much that I understand that I didn’t understand before,” Perry said. “It’s just neat to take in the culture in a different way.”
While many students may be intimidated by a study abroad opportunity or being out of your comfort zone, Hammond does not think you should let it stand in your way.
“As it got closer to the trip, I got so nervous and didn’t want to go,” Hammond said. “The day of the trip my parents came to take me and I remember begging, ‘Please don’t make me go, I don’t want to go.’”
“I’m so glad I went,” Hammond said. “It’s not what I expected at all.”
“Take the chance and go study abroad and it will open your eyes to so much,” Hammond said.
“You’re just kind of in a box when we just stay here and we learn about certain things, but when we’re forced to get outside and learn other things it’s just so amazing,” she said.
To learn more about all ALEC study abroad opportunities, visit https://alec.tamu.edu/studyabroad/.