Within our first month in Costa Rica, I felt as though we had explored the whole country, yet we knew that there would still be many adventures ahead. Here at SFS, time moves so quickly as we fill our days with engaging lectures, class discussions, excursions into Atenas, pandilla chores, field trips, group projects and papers. But somehow, moments pass by slowly as students reflect and rest in the porch hammocks, soaking in the life and beauty the surrounds us, scribbling some words down in our journals so we can look back and try to comprehend what it was like to be so alive in these moments. At some point we have transitioned from being  awkward strangers, reliving the icebreaker days of freshman year of college, to an SFS family. I believe that one point where we all came to this realization occurred on a field trip to Monteverde, where we began our first field exercise (FEX) experience.

The field trip to Monteverde got the group acquainted with one of Costa Rica’s cloud forests, an integral contributor to the country’s biodiversity. On the first day we hiked to the continental divide for lunch, finding ourselves lucky enough to have the clouds clear, briefly allowing us to steal a glimpse of the beauty that surrounded us, only to caught in a downpour as we trekked back to the center (I guess they call it a rainforest for a reason). The next two days, we were divided into our field exercise pairs and released into the wild. On every trail you could find students measuring, photographing, documenting, and exploring the cloud forest, looking for information to write our first scientific papers on.

Just as soon as the SFS family returned from this trip, it was time to head off to another family — our weekend home stays. We arrived to our homes wide-eyed, Spanish dictionaries in hand, ready to put our knowledge to the test and experience Costa Rican culture. Each student came back with unique stories ranging from helping work at a coffee plantation to riding a horse in a parade. There were also accounts of language blunders that kept us laughing for days.

This wonderful weekend was followed by a week of studying and midterms, with a reward waiting for us that Friday evening. Shortly after our last exam we began to transform the SFS Center for one of the most memorable nights of the semester, the family home stay dinner. This night we got to put faces to everyone’s tales of the weekend prior. We shared a delicious meal together followed by a student run talent show for entertainment. We closed the evening with talking, dancing and a room full of smiles. And I thought to myself, this is my life in Costa Rica.