Plants and People in Costa Rica by Jessica
12 Apr 2019 2:32 PM
Over spring break, I did my first study abroad trip to Costa Rica where I was able to learn about agriculture and be immersed in the Costa Rican culture. Not to mention, the study abroad office hooked it up with all-inclusive, beach front, hotels throughout our stay. Being a senior, I was super stoked about being able to get a study abroad trip into my last semester as an undergrad without having to dedicate an entire semester to do so.
The study abroad group consisted of 36 students lead by 2 faculty members and 1 Costa Rican host who got his PhD from Iowa State. The trip started on Wednesday the week before spring break so I was able to get out of class for a few days which was a cherry on top of the great adventure that Costa Rica would soon offer me.
Our days were filled with going to different farms and our evenings often consisted of enjoying the nice weather pool/beachside and catching sunsets. We often would start our day at 7am and make our way via coach bus to a local farm. While on the farm we would learn how different crops were grown and techniques that were used in order to adapt to the environment. The environment was extremely dependent upon season (dry or wet) and if it was off the Pacific Ocean or the Caribbean Sea. In the 10 days I was in Costa Rica, I learned in-depth and visited a coffee farm and production, avocado, rice processing, oil palms, organic farm, dairy farm, banana management and processing, pineapple, organic fertilizer, cocoa farm, chocolate processing, sugar cane, and irrigation systems. We also did not leave empty handed as we were encouraged to grab a ripe crop and take a bite!
My favorite place we visited was the irrigation system. I am getting a degree in Environmental Science with an interest in water quality and management so it is no surprise this was my favorite. I personally enjoyed the connection to techniques I learned in one of my 300 level courses was being applied in Costa Rica. It was a privilege to be able to experience this application in-person and see the complexities of the structure how data was being obtained. The professional that designed and manages the system was gave us a tour which was an honor to be able to ask questions to someone who is so knowledgeable in my area of study/intrest.
The Costa Rican culture was the most unforgettable experience and that, I am forever grateful for. Whether it was in the field or at a local market on the side of a road people would always offer fresh produce and conversation. I was able to make amazing connections with locals from their willingness to start a conversation. I would highly recommend going on a study abroad trip, your adventure at Iowa State would not be complete without it!