By: Caitlin Powers
Pura Vida, Spanish for pure life, is what ALEC students and faculty experienced while on a two week study abroad trip to Costa Rica over the winter break. A total of 24 aggies traveled to Texas A&M’s Soltis Center for Research and Education in San Isidro, Costa Rica where they experienced the culture, agritourism and ecotourism. Assistant Professor Robert Strong, Ph.D., and Associate Professor Julie Harlin, Ph.D., along with graduate teaching assistant Samantha Alvis, led the group of 12 undergraduate and nine graduate students.
“The concepts and information learned in the classroom are allowed to be applied outside the classroom in the activities they are doing and places they are visiting,” Alvis said.
Undergraduate students earned three hours of course credit for ALED 440 Principals of Technological Change and had the option to participate in a directed study to earn three hours of course credit.
The material learned in the classroom can be easily applied to the students’ current setting providing a good tool for discussion and understanding of the material, Alvis said. Graduate students conducted an assessment of the land in the area while there.
Students participated in a service learning project where they helped a local farmer plant an acre of beans by hand with a stick. “What we did in two hours would have taken him two days,” senior agricultural communications and journalism major Meagan Ghormley said.
Undergraduate students visited a variety of farms from locally owned to corporately owned learning about the agritourism industry. At a coffee bean plantation they learned the complete process from plant to grounds, Ghormley said.
Students learned agritourism and ecotourism are a big part of the economy in Costa Rica and even got to experience it by zip-lining over lakes and rappelling down mountains. Alvis said it was great opportunity for students to step even further outside their comfort zone by trying something new in a foreign place.
“The change that happens in the students is always neat to see,” Alvis said, “you learn a lot about yourself and have a greater global awareness by the end of the trip.”
ALEC students and faculty experienced “pure life” during their travels. Pura vida is a phrase used to describe the appreciative and positive nature of the Costa Rican people, Ghormely said.
“They live by this no matter what is going on, even if they do live on dirt floors,” Ghormely said.
By the second week everyone had a greater appreciation for transportation, Alvis said. The group had to do a lot of walking because the land is not easily accessible for vehicles. Alvis suggests getting in shape before the trip if you decide to study abroad to Costa Rica. In addition, Alvis suggests packing light, putting on ample sunscreen and generously applying bug spray while there.
You can learn about these adventures by checking out the students’ experiences at the ALEC study abroad blog.
Those interested in studying abroad can contact Cathryn Clement in the Study Abroad Office, located in the Agricultural and Life Sciences building, 515H, for more information.
The ALEC department will offer study abroad programs in Greece, Guatemala, and Namibia over the Summer 2013 semester, and in Brazil in the 2013 Maymester.