Study Abroad in Costa Rica - May 15 - May 27, 2016

The CCGA Journey of a Lifetime
The Costa Rica Study Abroad Program

By Tyler E. Bagwell

Students and faculty departed for Costa Rica in May 2012 for a two week excursion in the country. The trip was part of coursework for summer term and students enrolled in classes including Intercultural Communication (COMM 2200) taught by Assistant Professor of Speech Communication Tyler Bagwell, Introduction to Anthropology (ANTH 1102) taught by Adjunct Professor of Anthropology Robert Green, and Elementary Spanish I (SPAN 1001) taught by David Aguado, Associate Professor of Spanish at Valdosta State University.

The annual program is designed to increase student participation in study abroad, a University System of Georgia initiative. Students were introduced to the history, language, and culture of Costa Rica while receiving classroom instruction in core curriculum.

“I loved Costa Rica so much that I can definitely see myself going back after I graduate,” declared education major Savannah Griswold. “I want to teach in a Spanish speaking country and somewhere like Costa Rica fits into those plans perfectly. I loved everything about my experience... It is about stepping outside of your comfort zone and just really going for it, and I am so thankful that I did…I am grateful for this once in a lifetime experience and because of it I feel that I have grown as a person.”

Costa Rica is a Central American country with a tropical climate, lush rain forests, and beautiful beaches. Classes met almost daily and students visited educational institutions, historical sites, and nature preserves. The intent of the program is to:
  • Increase awareness of global issues and globalization;
  • Increase interest in the history of a different area of the world;
  • Increase problem-solving abilities through adapting to different cultures and environments;
  • Increase awareness of Central American customs through observations;
  • Acquire and improve functional verbal communications abilities; Develop more culturally-sensitive attitudes and behaviors; and
  • Increase levels of personal independence, curiosity, and willingness to explore
While visiting San Jose, the largest city in Costa Rica, students viewed artwork at a children’s museum, browsed the Central Market stores, and visited Universidad de Costa Rica, the largest college in the country.

“We enjoyed touring the city and got to go to the Museo de los Ninos. There was so much beautiful art work in there. It was amazing how the city turned an old prison into a children’s museum” stated education major Laine Battey. “We were also able to go to the Universidad de Costa Rica. The layout of this school was well thought out… we saw some posters there for a concert that was playing down the street from the hotel. That afternoon, we walked to the concert and enjoyed a reggae/pop Costa Rican band.”

In the town of Monteverde students enjoyed cool mountain air, old growth forests, and traditional Costa Rican hospitality. While chicken, beans and rice are often served at meals, the group dined on one occasion at an Italian restaurant preparing pizzas on a wood burning brick oven. A highlight for many in Monteverde was zip-lining by cable and harness through the forest and free-falling on a “Tarzan” swing.

Savannah Griswold remarked, “The weather in the mountains is much cooler but I didn’t find that I needed a jacket very often. It was perfect. My favorite activity that we did together as a group was zip lining through the mountains. I was really scared at first, but when I got the hang of it, I had such an awesome time. It was an adrenaline rush and the scenery was absolutely outstanding.”

While in the mountains students met daily in the conference room of the hotel for classroom instruction. The group also explored a coffee farm and observed the processes involved with cultivating and marketing organic coffee.

John Taylor, a general studies major noted, “The next morning we set out to go to the coffee plantation and to take a tour. On the way we saw a monkey on some power lines and the driver stopped so we could take pictures… The roads were very narrow and some of the bridges only one car could pass at a time. We arrived at the coffee plantation and met up with Alejandro who was one of the owners of Thrive Coffee, and learned a lot about how this company was trying to cut out the middle man and give more support to the farmers whom do most of the work but get the least pay. We spent the day walking through the planted coffee fields that were on the hillside. We stopped at the owner’s house for some coffee and a pastry that his sister had just made from scratch.”

Students also relaxed in hot springs at Volcano Arenal, swam in the Pacific Ocean while touring the coastal city of Manuel Antonio, and viewed monkeys, sloths, and macaws at Manuel Antonio National Park. On the return to San Jose, some students decided to go whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River.

Mathematics major Jordan Davis expounds, “Six of us went [whitewater rafting] and I had the time of my life. It was really a team effort and sometimes we could not paddle because we were so busy laughing. This was a great way to end the trip and we have some pictures from it that are going to last a lifetime.”

“The classes that we had while we were in Costa Rica were very interesting,” concluded Savannah Griswold. “Going into this trip, I was worried that because of the time constraint issue that we would be spending a lot of our time in class and not have very much free time to explore and really get to experience things, but the teachers did a great job of using time wisely in order to make it all worthwhile… It is nice to have a laid back environment to learn in because I feel that I learn more and appreciate the content more when I am relaxed and comfortable.”

The College of Coastal Georgia will offer another study abroad trip to Costa Rica in 2016 from May 15th to May 27th. Courses offered include AMST 4490, INST 1000, ANTH 1102, COMM 2200, and SPAN 1001. Download the application and submit to Tyler Bagwell in Academic Commons North, Room 236. Additional information is available by calling Bagwell at 279.5882 or emailing at
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