Alumni

Alumni Profiles

Marissa Cusick

Costa Rica Summer '12

Marissa Cusick

About

Although I couldn’t have possibly realized it at the time, my time with SFS planted seeds that you can directly see sprouting currently in my life.

 
SFS PROGRAM: Sustainable Development Studies | Costa Rica | Summer 2012
HOME SCHOOL WHILE AT SFS: West Chester University
CURRENT POSITION: Assistant Farm Manager, Obercreek Farm
 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE OR MOST STRIKING SFS MEMORY?
Since I was only in Costa Rica for about a month, I feel as though maybe the memories I have of the country and the SFS experience are all still vivid and have thankfully stayed singular. I remember a good majority: from taking trips to a farm where we planted trees, visiting San Jose, our stay in the biological research station for our final projects. I also remember certain specific images like the eucalyptus trees, waking up early in the morning to a sun illuminated Arenal volcano, or simply looking out over campus from the hammock on the porch. I have an image of Edgardo unveiling a group of bats from beneath a (banana?) tree, crocodile-filled mangroves, and simple, beautiful meals with my classmates. I remember Atenas and leaving campus for runs up the hill, getting ice cream and candy from the shop down the street, and our trip to Jaco beach. Since it has been 6 years since my SFS experience, I do not have one specific memory that is my favorite. Now, they have all assumed equal importance.

 
LOOKING BACK, WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM YOUR TIME AT SFS?
Although I couldn’t have possibly realized it at the time, my time with SFS did, in fact, plant seeds that you can directly see sprouting currently in my life. After graduating college, I moved across the country to plant trees out in the Pacific Northwest with an environmental non-profit called Earthcorps. After a year, I returned home to try my hand at organic farming. Since beginning farming, I have a nascent interest in agroforestry and carbon farming and have explored these disciplines within the context of organic farming. I have also completed a certificate in Permaculture Design. All of these have a direct correlation to daily life on the SFS campus, projects for our classes, and the educational trips we completed during the SFS summer session.

 
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A PROSPECTIVE SFS STUDENT?
If this is what you want or what you even THINK you want, and have the means to make it happen, it is probably worth your time. Costa Rica is truly one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to and the teachers are understanding and helpful. Also, learn some Spanish, if you can. I did not and seriously regret this.

 
RECOMMEND A GREAT BOOK OR FILM THAT HAD AN INFLUENCE ON HOW YOU VIEW THE ENVIRONMENT
Completing a degree in Environmental Geography, there is truly too much content I have consumed over the past 10 years. I read a lot, so I will recommend some wonderful books I have read:

  • I am currently reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. This book is connecting me to the place I currently live and considers the importance of reciprocity in a world where all that humans currently seem to do is take from the environment.
  • Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard is a book about the company Patagonia and how the business has conserved the Patagonian landscape while still building a successful business with primary responsibility toward the Earth.
  • The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka deals primarily with the radical autonomy that comes with growing your own food, but allowing the crops to have a life of their own in the most natural way possible.
  • Cities in the Wilderness by the former secretary of state of Arizona, Bruce Babbit, concentrates on the use of land in the United States and how we can and must use laws to restore land for the sake of the land itself, the non-human species that call it home, and also for humans.
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan has had a great impact upon my personal life. Because of this book, I discovered the environmental impact that consuming animal products has on the Earth. It is the initial reason I have now been plant based for the last 6 years of my life.

 
DESCRIBE A FAVORITE SPOT IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS FOR EXPLORING AND/OR REFLECTION
One of the last places I visited in Washington was a long hike we took to complete some back country trail work. I am not sure of what the trail was called but we ended up at Deep Lake. To get to Deep Lake, which is located on the Pacific Crest Trail, my crew and I hiked with 40+ lbs on our backs up 5 miles and then down 3 miles into a valley. It took us around 6-7 hours (a testament to the elevation gain, which I am also not sure of) but is also on my list for one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life. I will ALWAYS recommend this hike to anyone that is able to do it. Not only is there a beautiful lake to swim in, you can explore as much of the Pacific Crest Trail as you want and a pit toilet was dug for you in 2014 by a crew from Earthcorps! Other than a specific location such as Deep Lake, any spot in the forest does the trick for me. Try to find a sunny opening. Maybe a meadow of sorts.

 

July 2018