Service Learning Study Abroad Group Learns About Pura Vida

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

Ever dream of living and working in a sustainable community in the tropics in summer? Professor of Biology Jamie Prusak, along with Professor of Software Development Lisa Macon, Campus Director, Faculty and Instructional Development Shara Lee, and former staff member Resham Shirsat, made that dream come true for 11 students when they traveled to Costa Rica from Saturday, June 22 to Saturday June 29, 2019, on a service learning study abroad trip focused on sustainability.

The first stop of the trip was Rancho Margot, located in the northwest region of the country near the Arenal volcano. The group lived and worked in this sustainable, off-grid community where students learned how the residents manage their natural resources, i.e., water and land, to provide an abundant and sustainable life for themselves. In addition, the students were educated on the native flora and fauna.

Through hands-on work on the farm, the students learned permaculture techniques and ate the fruits of their labor during meals in the communal outdoor dining room. Almost all of the provisions used to cook the delicious dishes came directly from the Rancho Margot farm including the tropical produce, dairy products and meats. The daily work was challenging and labor intensive in the steamy climate, but the students persevered, practicing sustainable farming techniques about which they had only read.

During the second half of the trip, the group traveled southeast to the town of Cahuita. In this picturesque coastal village, the students, in conjunction with the local residents, worked on an ongoing sustainability project at the elementary school. The Valencia team contributed to this effort by building compost bins, labeling the recycling bins and constructing pollinator nesting houses for bees. All were excited to contribute to this larger initiative in educating the young people of Cahuita on how to live sustainably.

During free time, the group explored the rainforest of a national park, visited a conservation-minded wildlife rescue center, surfed in the Caribbean Sea, danced salsa with locals, swam at the base of a waterfall, sampled delicious, exotic local cuisine, watched many sloths, soaked in thermal springs, roasted cacao beans and visited with the indigenous Bribri people.

For that week, the group truly lived, breathed and worked the mantra of the Costa Ricans, Pura Vida, which means “pure life.”

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