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Student Life: What Costa Rica Offers American Students

Just over a year later, CEA Winter 2015 alumna, Bhumi Patel, made her way back to San Jose, Costa Rica as an Onsite Ambassador. In this role, Bhumi supports the CEA onsite team and helps facilitate the study abroad experience for students by guiding them to make the most of their time abroad. So what does San Jose have to offer? Bhumi uncovers the uniqueness and opportunity available to study abroad students as they explore the "pura vida" culture:
 Bhumi (left) with CEA San Jose Spring 2016 student, learning about the organic production, local culture, history, development and types of chocolate at Sibu, Costa Rica's premier artisan chocolate company.
 Chocolates at Sibu in Costa Rica.

We sink into a complete culture shock when we travel to a country with a different functional lifestyle. The allure of Costa Rica for many American students can be attributed to numerous elements including: richness of nature, profound culture, diversity of academics, and depth of adventure.

One of the largest benefits that Costa Rica has to offer its students is a new perspective on an academic curriculum and personal awareness. There’s a significant importance of the practical curriculum beyond the classroom in all areas of study. This is because, in Costa Rica, much of the knowledge can be easily applied, as we are surrounded by ecology, nature, industry, and a global connection. For example, rather than solely reading about the reptile physiology, psychological behaviors, or net profit calculations of a growing business, students are continuously applying what they are organically learning into their lives. This is primarily in response to the national focus on growth and security of biodiversity, industry, and cultural awareness. Students attend academic excursions to places such as Biological Reserves, non-profit organizations, and National Parks to vividly capture what they are learning.

 CEA San Jose Spring 2016 students learning about the coral reef and marine biodiversity by directly examining animals on a class excursion at Cahuita National Park.

The array of extracurricular activities are continually growing for the students in Costa Rica. Volunteering, attending cultural dance and cooking classes, joining organizations, attending festivals, and taking an art tour of the city with students are just some of the engagement activities that have been popular in the past. This allows students to learn the Spanish language and spend time in the communities - both of which help strengthen their outlooks and personal growth. To help further this growth, Costa Rica intrigues its students through educational outdoor activities. Going on hikes with groups, learning how chocolate is made, or even exploring natural remedies are just some of the many examples of involvement here in the country.
 CEA San Jose Spring 2016 students learning about the coral reef and marine biodiversity by directly examining animals on a class excursion at Cahuita National Park.

Furthermore, Costa Rica is known to have a piece of almost every country in the world. As a result of its tourist-heavy population and extensive international affiliation, Costa Rica allows students to strengthen their global awareness, as they are constantly surrounded by diverse backgrounds. Germany, Italy, England, Netherlands, Spain, Argentina, China, India, Africa, and many more countries are represented here at our universities, at local restaurants, and in almost all corners of the country. Whether students are taking a class, visiting the beaches, forests, or even museums, they are bound to meet a variety of people. This inclusive nature enables our students to learn about other cultures, languages, customs, and grow from their engagement with the world.

By being involved both in the academics and the cultural experiences, American students are able to build their interests by reciprocating what they learn in their own daily routines in Costa Rica and after their travels back home. This is the beauty of a well-rounded experience in Costa Rica. Not only can the students gain an understanding of the academics, but they are able to obtain a first-hand exposure through the pura vida culture. For this reason, many students firmly believe studying here is enjoyable and permeable- a characteristic that strengthens the study abroad program and the country of Costa Rica.

Bhumi Patel is a CEA San Jose Winter 2015 alumna and a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where she studied biology. She is currently a CEA Onsite Ambassador in San Jose, Costa Rica.    

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