First Impressions of Costa Rica

Posted: July 17, 2013

Name: Matt Tsui
School: Pennsylvania State University
Major: Environmental Resource Management
Program: Applied Research Techniques & Strategies Toward Sustainability, Costa Rica

In recent years my home city of Philadelphia, PA has made large strides towards becoming a top-rated sustainable city.  Costa Rica has made even larger strides, making themselves a role model in sustainability for countries and cities all over the world. I came to Costa Rica to learn more about sustainable initiatives in the field and in the classroom, in order to better help my home city. This, coupled with my desire to work in nature, led me to apply to be a student with The School for Field Studies in Costa Rica.

On the flight to San Jose I sat next to a Costa Rican woman who happens to be a Spanish teacher in the States. She prepared me for her country, telling me about the beautiful cloud forests, Caribbean beaches, and mango farms. Costa Rica is really diverse! Sure enough, when I first arrived at the San Jose airport, I found myself surrounded by mountains, palm trees, nuns blessing me, my fellow SFS peers, and a famous surfer!

At the Center, as I hauled my bags up the stairs to the dorm, the Summer Combined students were all waiting at the porch to greet us. My roommate, Alex, told me about the quirks of our living conditions. It takes a little getting used to, but I figured that I would be open to anything. The staff and students were amazing in helping me get adjusted and answering the millions of questions I had.

My dream is to do research all around the world. Unfortunately, I have not traveled a lot and have only done one research project prior to Costa Rica. My relative lack of experience is a disadvantage, but is something I intend to overcome through hard work. The language barrier became extremely obvious when I entered Costa Rica. Despite this, Ticos (as Costa Ricans call themselves) are known as friendly people and many have tried to teach me some basic vocabulary. I am looking forward to learning more Spanish as the program goes on as well as learning about Costa Rican natural history, immersing myself in the culture, photographing Costa Rican native animals, and becoming a better scientist!