COSTA RICA STUDY ABROAD OFFERS A LOOK INTO environment, community, and sustainability ASPECTS OF AGRICULTURE
Colby Smock (Agribusiness Management; Monticello, IN)
What made you choose to do a Study Abroad? How did you decide on this program over others?
I chose to study abroad because I knew it would be a great way to push my comfort zone, while also having the opportunity to learn in a way I never have before. I knew Purdue Ag had good study abroad opportunities and I felt it would be a great decision for me to take advantage of them. I decided on the Purdue Ag in Costa Rica: Agricultural, Environmental and Community sustainability because for one I had already been to Costa Rica and loved it! But a big reason why I also chose this program was because it tied together some of the most interesting parts of agriculture to me… the environment, community, and sustainability. I thought this would be a great opportunity to see how such a beautiful and environmentally friendly country like Costa Rica goes about their society. All in the hope that I could learn some things to try to bring back to our own American society.
How did you prepare for this experience?
I prepared for this experience by focusing on the mental aspect of it. I knew that the perspective that I took into the experience would really shape how it played out. So, I tried my best to keep an open mind about it and was preparing to just take it one day at a time. Allowing the experience to be all that it was.
What is something that surprised you?
The biggest thing that surprised me in Costa Rica studying abroad was how close we all became in just a week. It was absolutely remarkable watching around thirty- three strangers become one big family. It was refreshing to have the opportunity to spend a week with people who all truly cared about the well- being of one another. Something that is rare in today’s world.
What was the biggest adjustment you experienced studying abroad?
The biggest adjustment that I experienced studying abroad was the lack of sleep. This was partially my fault, of course, as I chose to be more social in the evening instead of going to bed. But we really did have some early mornings of about 3- 4 am. However, when you are getting up at 3 am to get on a ferry to watch the sunrise over the bay of the ocean, I can think of much worse things to get up that early for.
How have you grown personally and professionally through this experience?
I could name many ways that I have grown both personally and professionally from this experience, but I would like to focus on the one that stuck with me the most, relationships with others. In Costa Rica I realized the power of community. From day one Dr. Marcos Fernandez asked us to just do one thing and that was to “see if we could all get along”. That is exactly what we did, and this lesson has stuck with me ever since. When you can step outside of a worldview that is strictly focused on your own well- being you can start to deepen the relationships and connection that you have with other people. And when thirty-three people do this it creates a very special experience. Other people are the only thing we have in this life because with out them we would all be alone. Having this realization has led me to enrich the relationships that I have in my own life because I now understand that it is relationships that are the most valuable aspect to my life. It is the connections I have with others that help me be who I am.
What are some experiences or activities you participated in while abroad that you would consider highlights of your experience?
My whole study abroad experience was a highlight, but if I had to pick two moments that stuck with me it would be seeing a bright moon while floating in the ocean and dancing like crazy at a dinner we had at the Hot Springs. Seeing the moon over the water and being able to turn my head to see a beautiful sunset over the Costa Rican landscape was a truly remarkable experience. When looking at the moon I remember thinking to myself, “this is the same moon that I am always under”. This thought has meant a lot to me as I transitioned from the experience that was study abroad in Costa Rica to a more everyday kind of lifestyle back home in Indiana. I find myself looking at the moon here on Purdue’s campus and thinking of that night in Costa Rica. It is a great reminder of all the beautiful things I learned and to enjoy the beauty that is in front of me right now, no matter where I am at. Dancing after dinner at the Hot Springs was also a great moment for me because for one who doesn’t love to dance? And for two it was one of the first moments when our group really broke into a magical space where all judgement was surpassed. We all let free and were ourselves. It was a very liberating experience and once again awesome to see so many people letting go and enjoying life to the fullest.