At the beginning of the spring semester, we asked student Kathleen Gekiere about her first impressions of Costa Rica. Now, as the semester comes to a close, she shared her thoughts with us again.
What did you like most about the SFS experience?
I’ve learned a lot about Costa Rica and the world in general in my time at SFS. The structure of SFS has allowed me time to learn about and explore the country, both in structured analysis and education time and in my personal time. Of all the subjects that I’ve learned about while in this program, the most important is all that I have learned about myself. While it’s important to learn in the classroom and about Costa Rica, what I will really take away from this experience is a new understanding of myself and my passions and motivations in life. These lessons will stick with me always. Soul-searching is not an “official” part of the SFS experience; however, the structure of the program is part of what makes this new understanding possible.
You’ve been in the country for a full semester – tell us your impressions of it now.
I have had the privilege of exploring many parts of Costa Rica, and experiencing the many different faces of the country. In many locations, the primary facade of the area is focused toward tourists. Looking beyond and deeper than these tourist centers, I have seen a culture of people who have a remarkable connection to place. The landscape of the world around them is not merely where they live but part of them and their life experiences.
What is life at the Center really like? What are the best and the most challenging parts?
It’s very easy to settle into life at the Center. Over my time here, I feel that I have been able to make my mark upon this place in the plants I have planted and the artwork we have added. It has been both rewarding and challenging to live in a close community of students all living, working, and spending time together. It gave me the opportunity to really get to know people and have many new experiences, but it could also be difficult to live in close quarters with so many people. I have definitely improved my interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester both academically and culturally?
With any period of growth, challenges are present. For me, I became somewhat culturally exhausted quickly. There were many times that I was tired of the ever-prevalent cultural differences of everyday life. It was through learning to continue on past my fatigue that I have grown in my cultural aptitude and understanding.
Academically, I have gone through the difficult realization that I do not really like conducting scientific research. This area of study has been completely new to me this semester and is heavily present in the structure of the courses at SFS. Devising data collection and data analysis methods and implementing these methods to undertake a research project has been a constant learning experience, both about a new area of academia, and about my personal interests, passions, and working strategies.
What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
While we were in Monteverde National Park, sitting on the sides of a trail receiving a lecture on cloud forest ecology as hiking groups passed around our motley crew, a nearby Black Faced Solitaire began singing. This bird has the most amazing song: it sounds nearly metallic and jumps octaves with ease. After several attempts to continue lecturing through the sound, our bird-expert professor, Edgardo, stopped the lecture to listen to the beautiful distraction. This type of experience happened often in our semester: our professors would be overcome with genuine excitement in the field and teach us something more than the curriculum, something that cannot be replicated by the dispassionate. Seeing the passion and joy of the professors, my fellow students, and local Costa Ricans is really what makes each experience of this trip meaningful.
Give three adjectives that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Accomplished, Fulfilled, Bittersweet