Oh Costa Rica. It really is an amazing place and it really does leave a lasting impression on you. Maybe it is the "pura vida" lifestyle (the country doesn't even have an army!), or the lush, exotic environment (so different from our own in NM), or the healthy food that grows on you (beans and rice and non-processed foods). Whatever it is, I will never forget my time there during the Sustainability Seminar Series at CATIE. If I can speak for both me and Denisha, I can say that we met a host of great peoples on our trip. People from all over (most memorably were those from Ecuador, Switzerland, Panama, Denton TX, France, and the Czech Republic). The people in Costa Rica are so friendly and willing to help you in any situation - which I found to be quite nice and a bit surprising. Also, the school of CATIE has a great energy to it that I will never forget. Between rafting the great river of the Pacuare, watching the sea turtle laying its eggs on the beach of Guanacaste, experiencing my first cow-milking at the dairy farm, the agua refescas that I drooled over each and every day, spending time at Charlie's bar and the other local bars, drinking the best 'chocolate caliente' ever created, and seeing my first perezosos (sloths) in all of their (somewhat ugly) beauty - our trip to Costa Rica was overall a spectacular experience.
For anyone who is thinking about venturing on this study abroad trip, or any trip to Costa Rica for that matter, I suggest you pack light, not worry as much about the food or drink as those in our first world US may lead you to believe, bring insect repellent, come with an open mind and make sure to delay all judgements (as this is crucial for any world travel to cultures outside of your own), take your umbrella with you everywhere (you never know when it might start raining), and be willing to see the world from a different perspective - one that considers the social, environmental, and economic impacts of each of the decisions we all make everyday in our lives, no matter how big or how small.
Sustainability is not just a trend that tries to convince you that climate change exists, nor is it intended to ridicule the way you live your life, it is just another way of looking at the world. It is about seeing the potential for creating a paradigm shift, one where we begin to question the current framework in which we live, while noticing (from a very non-ethnocentric viewpoint) that maybe our framework is not ideal; not that it isn't right, just that there may be ways to improve it so that we can enhance the conditions on this planet for people, wildlife, and environments. Not just in the present time, but for the future as well. We can do this by looking at other cultures' approaches to the challenges we all face (such as models of sustainable tourism in Costa Rica). This is where the heart of the sustainability movement lies. As we learned, placing tourism in the perspective of sustainability is highly important because the impacts of the tourism industry reverberate far and wide, across cultures and environments. The knowledge I gained from this trip really supplemented by education in HRTM and provided me with additional skills revolved around sustainability, which are skills that more and more employers are looking for today.
A special thanks to our instructor Eric Norman, whose heart and soul are grounded in sustainable thinking. Your passion is an inspiration to all of us. Thanks for everything. Also, thanks to the administration and instructors at CATIE such as Dr. Vargas and Dr. Dormody and UNT professor Dr. Spears. Lastly, thanks to Mr. Bloomquist in the HRTM department (and Priscilla Bloomquist) for their work to get this program running, and to the Provost office for supporting such a program. This trip would not have existed without any of you, so thanks for creating such a spectacular opportunity for us.