Posted: September 19, 2012
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First Impressions: SFS Costa Rica

Costa Rica


Name: Devyn Powell
School: Tufts University
Major: Environmental Studies & International Relations
Program: Sustainable Development Studies, Costa Rica


Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?

When I started looking at abroad programs, I knew I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country, and that I also wanted a program with an environmental studies focus. With those two criteria, plus looking only at programs that my university had already approved, my choices were narrowed down pretty well for me and I started looking at SFS right off the bat. The more I read about the program, the more perfect it seemed for me – all the classes looked right up my alley, the pictures of the school looked absolutely gorgeous, and I’ve always wanted to go to Costa Rica, so I thought, “Okay, why not? This looks pretty cool,” and applied. No regrets so far!

What are your first impressions of the country?

The very first thing that struck me about Costa Rica was when I looked out the window of the plane as we were descending toward San Jose, I couldn’t believe how green everything was! I’ve been living in the Boston area for a while now, and there are no trees in that city. I’m from Oregon originally and I thought there was a lot of green space there, but even the Pacific Northwest pales in comparison to Costa Rica. And of course now that I’ve had my feet on the ground for a while, it’s only more beautiful. Everything from the palm trees everywhere to the constant hum of cicadas to the hummingbirds flitting everywhere to the fresh papayas and avocados at almost every meal make this place feel like a tropical dream. Also, the people are incredibly friendly. I was running down the road from the center the other morning and every person I passed greeted me with a “¡Buenos Dias!” That definitely doesn’t happen in Boston.

What are your first impressions of the field station?

There’s only cold water for the showers. I feel like a very good steward of the earth whenever I’m in the shower because I’m saving so much water and energy, but my first shower was a shock in every sense of the word. That will take some getting used to for a while now. Other than that, it’s beautiful and lush and the people – students, faculty, and staff – are all a lot of fun to be around. And there are fruit trees everywhere! I’ve never lived anywhere where I can pluck a fresh orange off a tree whenever I’m hungry. Or a starfruit. Have you ever tried a starfruit? They’re glorious.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?

I’m not too worried about the academics because all the classes seem so interesting so far. I’m very interested in sustainable development and environmental economics and policy, so it doesn’t seem like there will be any classes that I’ll struggle to focus in. I know I will have to work to balance doing well in classes with all the excitement of living in a foreign country and making friends with new people and wanting to travel to every imaginable location, but I think—well, hope—that I’ll be OK. Culturally, I’m worried about being able to communicate in Spanish without making a fool of myself. I want to get to know the people here and be able to express myself in Spanish, but I’m going to have to overcome a lot of inhibitions first.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?

I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone on the program, to improving my Spanish, to learning a ton about sustainability and tropical ecology, to all the field trips and traveling, and to all the great food. In other words, pretty much everything.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.

Tired, hopeful, hungry!

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