My summer experience with SFS in Costa Rica has been mind-blowing! This was not only my first time out of the United States, but also the first time I have taken courses in environmental sustainability. I participated in Summer Sessions I and II and was able to complete two research projects, another first for me.

During Session I, I designed my own study that focused on waste management in the rural community of El Sur. The process was very intimidating to me at first because I had never done this type of work before; however, the professors were there to help guide and give recommendations. I developed the confidence to design my own methods for the study and to prepare and conduct interviews in Spanish. I really enjoyed speaking with the El Sur community members because they were very friendly and I was able to practice my Spanish without being embarrassed. Through this experience I gained skills I would not have learned at my college.

As part of the ongoing relationship between SFS and the national park systems in Costa Rica, in Session II we participated in a research project with one of the professors to assess the carrying capacity of Carara National Park. We spent five days conducting surveys with park visitors both in English and in Spanish, and used the surveys to evaluate their experiences. We also conducted field measurements to observe and assess conditions of the trail system. I really enjoyed working in the field to conduct this study and experience the abundance of wildlife in the national park, from families of capuchin and howler monkeys, very fuzzy caterpillars, and agouties. Most importantly, however, I was able to be a part of something that involved finding possible solutions to a real-world problem.

I have learned so many things about myself, and now have a really good idea of what I would like to study in the future. I am so glad I participated in this experience with SFS because I feel more confident about entering my senior year of college and furthering my studies in graduate school. I strongly recommend that people participate in both sessions because you will be exposed to two different aspects of the research process. Honestly, there were times I felt overwhelmed, but never did I regret the decision to participate in both summer sessions. I feel very confident about my future and want to thank The School for Field Studies for allowing me to participate in these programs. This has been the best experience of my life thus far!