“By completing my homestay and forming close relationships with people in my program and residents, I formed a community that was strongly connected by the appreciation for the place we were lucky enough to live in.”
I wanted to study biology in the field and have an adventure! I chose Costa Rica because it has a wealth of biodiversity and different ecosystems to explore. I chose my program because it incorporated travel, independent research, and a one-month homestay.
My home stay was the most interesting cultural experience. My host family did not speak English, so I was really immersed in the language and local culture. I formed close relationships with my family members and got to speak a lot of Spanish.
My biggest challenge was the administrative aspect of attending an independent program. I had to take extra steps to get my courses approved, but it was worth the extra work in the end.
My days were very different, since we spent six weeks traveling the country, four weeks doing independent research and staying with a host family, and eight weeks living at a biological station in the cloud forest. However, a typical day at the station included taking classes like tropical community ecology and tropical diversity in the morning, and going to Spanish class or having free time in the afternoon. We ate all of our meals together in the dining room at the station. During my free time I usually hiked through the cloud forest reserve just steps away from the station, caught up on homework, practiced some yoga, or visited the town of Santa Elena.
I took tropical community ecology, tropical diversity, human ecology, Spanish, and independent research classes. These classes were somewhat easier than Berkeley classes, but independent research and tropical diversity still required that you put a fair amount of work in.
The most meaningful aspect of time abroad was that I gained a strong sense of place. I gained a lot of knowledge about the biology that surrounded me, which gave me an even greater appreciation of the incredible ecosystems that served as my classrooms. In addition, by completing my homestay and forming close relationships with people in my program and Monteverde residents, I formed a community that was strongly connected by the appreciation for the place we were lucky enough to live in.
Studying abroad made me a more independent and confident scientist, traveler, and friend. I gained a lot of academic skills through independent research and my classes on the tropics as well as interpersonal skills. Study abroad showed me that I was stronger than I thought I was, and showed me that by remaining open minded and spontaneous, I could have incredible adventures both abroad and at home.
I would recommend that students have a passion for tropical conservation and biology. In addition I would recommend this program to people who are seeking a sense of adventure and are willing to go beyond their comfort zone. While traveling through tropical rainforests is not always the most comfortable experience, anyone who is passionate about learning about nature and willing to engage with a different culture will have some awe-inspiring experiences.