As the Spring 2018 SFS students begin to settle into their new homes around the world, we asked them to share their impressions of the experience so far. Kathleen Gekiere had this to say about SFS Costa Rica:
Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I have known I wanted to study abroad in some capacity since I was a little kid; I was only searching for the right fit. I wanted a program that would allow me to interact with many aspects of a foreign country and understand the people and environment intimately. More importantly, I wanted to be more than just a tourist, superficially enjoying a place. SFS’s Sustainable Development program allows me to interact and learn from people across the country, while expanding my practical skills in scientific research.
What are your first impressions of the country?
When I first arrived in Costa Rica, I was struck by the beautiful landscape of the countryside. This early perception has stuck with me through my first week, but my understanding of the different areas of beauty has expanded. The mountains are awe striking and resolute and the rainforest is lush with life. Living within this beautiful world are fascinating people who have quickly opened their lives to me. The town of Atenas, where the Center is located, is bustling with excitement and joy, which I experienced firsthand at a Mass in La Iglesia Católica Atenas. The people gathered and sung with such joy and spirit, and I did my best to sing along, despite not knowing the words. Sitting in a beautiful church, feeling the breeze coming down the mountains through the open doors and listening to the birds and people sing in unison, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of connection to Costa Rica, a place with which I will only become more acquainted.
What are your first impressions of the field station?
While away on our first field trip, I surprised myself by remarking that we would soon be headed back home to the Center. Within the span of a few days, the Center already began to feel like a home. The dormitories and the family room are pleasant, but, to me, the essence of the Center is outdoors. From the hammocks on the broad porch to the greenhouse and orchard, the best areas of the Center are those where you can breathe in the fresh air and feel the sun on your skin. The variety of plants and animals in the small area of the Center really remind me of the importance and beauty of the world. It’s simultaneously relaxing and inspiring. Plus, walking around the gardens, I can always smell cilantro, my favorite food!
What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester, both academically and culturally?
As a Humanities major who primarily focuses on literature, the prospect of designing and undertaking field experiments is both exciting and nerve wracking. This program is an entirely new experience for me academically, giving me the opportunity to explore the hard sciences in a hands on way. Culturally, I am more concerned about my lackluster Spanish skills getting in the way of connecting with the people and culture. Hopefully this will be the incentive and means I need to really bring these skills up to snuff.
What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I am very excited about our upcoming camping trip in the dry tropical forest. It is an ecosystem that I hadn’t heard much of until now, and I always love a good time tent camping!
Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Centered, connected, and enthusiastic.