Costa Rica is often perceived as a perfect model of sustainability. While many sustainability policies and practices are in place, this country still faces problems related to environmental, social, and economic justice. This is perhaps a pertinent reminder that sometimes even places that are known for the beauty of their ecosystems still have work to be done. For example, despite pristine beaches in popular tourist areas, we have already seen firsthand that many of Costa Rica’s beaches are littered with plastic or polluted with agricultural and urban runoff.
Aside from polluted areas, Costa Rica remains a biodiversity hotspot, attracting over a million tourists each year. It is a wonder that it is home to over 6% of the world’s biodiversity at just .03% of the earth’s landmass, making it an ideal location to study the impacts of climate change on ecosystems. Conducting research through SFS in a place as unique and abundant in life as Costa Rica can provide great insight into practices that can mitigate the worsening effects of climate change. The importance of studying ecosystems lies in the reality that our collective sentiment and action around climate change, especially in fully developed countries such as the US, is far less urgent than it ought to be. Gaining experiential learning at this time is imperative for the career I hope to pursue after graduating.
I love that I’m developing an interdisciplinary approach to solving environmental problems through learning about natural resource management, tropical ecology, environmental ethics, and Costa Rican culture in an entirely different way than in the typical college classroom setting in the US. We’ve already had class outside many times—one of which was even interrupted by a sloth sighting! Even though we’ve only been here for less than a month, I can already tell that stepping outside of the bubble of my university in the US is providing me with a new perspective that will help me throughout the rest of my education and career.
SFS provides an excellent opportunity to study in a beautiful setting with like-minded peers and incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic professors and staff. I never before thought that a place could instantaneously feel like home, but Costa Rica certainly has. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity and am more than excited to carry forth everything I learn here into the rest of my education and career.