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Students Who Studied in Costa Rica Would Go Back “In a Heartbeat”

May 30, 2013

Students Who Studied in Costa Rica College of Nursing and Health Professions students Katie Fox, Mackenzie Himpler and Ambar Witter recently returned from their study abroad trip to Costa Rica.

“I would definitely encourage anybody in the College of Nursing and Health Professions to do it. It took a little bit of work to make it work with my plan of study, but it was so worth it. I would do it again 1,000 times in a heartbeat,” said Fox, a junior Nursing student.

The students took four classes, which included one economics class and three healthcare electives through Universidad Latina. One of their electives, Vulnerable Populations, gave them the opportunity to work with the Cabecar Tribe, a group of indigenous peoples living in the mountains of Costa Rica. Their professor for the class was the head of a program called Proyecto Emmanuel that was established to help the Cabecar people care for themselves while still maintaining their culture. One of the projects the students took part in was helping the Cabecar people build bridges over the rivers in the Costa Rican mountains.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘Oh we’re going to do this service project, and then give them medical care and give them food,’ but then you’re creating a dependent culture,” Fox said. “They’re kind of giving them the knowledge and the resources, and then having them do things for themselves.”

The students also did volunteer work in the medical field on Fridays. Himpler, a junior Nursing student, and Witter, a junior Health Sciences student, spent their volunteer time at CasaDiba, a respite care facility for adults with mental illnesses. On their first day of work, one of the clients who had been there for more than ten years came over to them and initiated conversation. Later, Himpler and Witter spoke with the director of the facility who said that the man would never approach visitors so openly and warmly as he did to them.

“We got to form a very good relationship with him since then, and at the end he wrote us a sweet letter and gave us gifts from his dad,” Himpler said.

The students spent time building a relationship with their host families as well as taking advantage of the dry season in Costa Rica. Himpler and Fox’s Spanish improved dramatically from the experience of living with a host family. “That’s probably the best part of the experience, I think. I don’t think we would have had the same experience if we lived in an apartment,” Fox said.

“You definitely grow a lot after studying abroad; you learn stuff about yourself and you experience a different way of life and meet different people,” Himpler finished.