Not only does Costa Rica itself contain amazing sights, the education here is truly on a whole new level. Coming from a university in the middle of Kansas, the concept of field trips doesn’t really exist. Here it’s a completely different story. I’ve had the opportunity to go on two field trips with the Tropical Ecology class I’m in at Universidad Veritas, and both have been outstanding experiences. The first trip we ventured to the province of Guanacaste to Playa La Cruz where we spent the afternoon snorkeling and studying the marine ecosystems. We swam with starfish, manta rays, sea urchins, green sea turtles, and we were able to observe a poisonous yellow-bellied sea snake from a safe distance. This was my first-time snorkeling and it was a sensational experience that I’ll never forget! Not only did we get to snorkel during the day, at night we witnessed bioluminescent microorganisms that illuminated the ocean with our movements. While sunset and nighttime on the beach were breathtaking, nothing compares to the early morning sight of a rainbow painting the sky over the bay.
Our second field trip was to the Pocosol Biological Station in the Eternal Children’s Rain forest of Monteverde where we stayed in a rustic wooden tree house and spent the weekend hiking through the forests and documenting various species of frogs and birds. The cloud forest is a mysterious place where everything is shrouded in fog. With its remote location, you feel a distinct connection to nature not experienced elsewhere. We did a night hike and were able to see and hear the night life of the rain forest, such as poisonous frogs, snakes and many nocturnal insects you wouldn’t be able to see in the daylight.
As I study environmental science here, it has been an unfathomable experience to take trips to the areas we’ve discussed in class and expand on the knowledge I’m gaining firsthand. That’s one of the endless benefits to studying abroad and I’m extremely grateful for these opportunities that my university and ISA program provide!