So, here I am, 6 months after I returned from a semester in Costa Rica, packing again to go back to Costa Rica! I’m not even sure if that has really set in yet… it seems so surreal that I will soon be able to walk the same streets that I did everyday for two months (We’re going to visit ACM!), and see some of the same sights. This time, however, will also be very different in many ways. But let me backup first, and give you a little update of my life since returning from Costa Rica.
People often say that semesters abroad are life-changing experiences. I wasn’t sure I felt that way when I left Costa Rica – yes, it had definitely been a great learning experience and I tried new things and such, but had I actually changed that much? Well as time back in the states went by (FLEW by), I started realizing all of the ways that my experience in Costa Rica really has directed my path into the future. This is especially evident when looking at my current “future goals” or “career plans” – that big, looming pressure that stews in the back of every college student’s mind, flaming up more and more often as one becomes a senior and it seems that all people want to know is what you’re going to do after graduation. Well, thanks to recent experiences, I’ve decided I want to go to grad school, and I want to do research that is in some way related to agricultural systems. (That’s all the detail I’m going to divulge now…) I think this is largely due to the positive experience I had while living on the Finmac plantation. I was becoming slightly interested in agriculture before I went – that is, afterall, how I ended up on the farm in the first place – but at the time it was just one of many things I was interested in and considered studying. with my experience on the farm fresh in my memory, I wasted no time in accepting another agriculturally based project when I returned, that I completed this fall semester – and so on. Also, sloths are now my favorite animal. I miss them, and I sometimes miss the luxury of being able to live like one – at least temporarily.
So yeah, life went on. I loved the feeling of putting on a big comfy sweatshirt when the temps stayed cool in early June, but then the unusually hot & humid July had me pining for an ocean/beach get away (instead, I baked & sweated in out in my non air-conditioned dorm room). As fall rolled around I was plunged back into the hustle and bustle of life at St. Olaf, and the mounting stress from homework and activities and research and studying had me longing like never before for my hammock on the porch at Finmac. I missed my big plate of fresh fruit, guanabana juice, sloths, waking up at 5 or 5:30 am without needing an alarm and feeling refreshed and rested, thinking in Spanish without effort, and especially my ACM friends. Working with the off-campus studies office to help prepare the Oles who will be going on the program this spring was fun for me, because it meant I got to reminisce and share stories about Costa Rica.
However, like I mentioned earlier – I am one of the lucky ones. While all of us probably suffered through longings similar to those mentioned above, I got to endure them while also getting excited to go back, albeit under slightly different conditions.
I’m returning to Costa Rica – only for four weeks this time – for a St. Olaf Interim class, titled Tropical Ecology and Sustainable Land Use in Costa Rica. We will be traveling all over the country – moving every few days – to see and learn about some of the biology and conservation efforts of the diverse ecosystems found throughout the country. We will be visiting some places I went before, but also many new ones. I’m excited to learn in more detail about these systems and issues that fascinate me so much; however, I know I need to look forward to a very different experience than my last one in Costa Rica – the biggest things being that this course is in English, and we’ll be traveling around quite a bit and as a big group. It will take a little getting use to, but I’m looking forward to a great trip!