May 23, 2014
Saint Francis University students are currently on a study abroad trip to Costa Rica becoming familiar with the Costa Rican culture while gaining the extra Spanish proficiency that is critical to so many professions.
This is an update from Dr. Margaret Morales, Director of the Costa Rica Program and Associate Professor of Spanish.
I let a few days pass without any updates so there's a lot to tell. But first I want to say what an impressive group of students we have down here. They are all making not only their parents, but also SFU and their country very proud.
Sunday was our trip to the country's capital, San Jose. The first stop was at a beautiful church which impressed anyone who had never seen the elaborately decorated churches in Europe or Latin America.
The next stop was at the Museo del Oro (Museum of Gold) which should have been the highlight of the trip, but unfortunately the tour guide talked way too much and was a bit boring. However, the artistry in gold of Costa Rica's earliest civilizations was stunning. No other Latin American country has such a large collection of intricate and spectacular artwork in gold because the conquistadors boiled almost everything down in their other colonies to make gold bars to be shipped back to Spain. The Costa Rican indigenous populations were able to hide their art pieces and every Costa Rican today is extremely proud of this museum.
After that we went to the Teatro Nacional where all of the heads of states of other countries meet when they visit Costa Rica. Everything about the architecture and decor was was absolutely beautiful --the marble columns, crystal chandeliers, gold latticework, etc.
From there we walked to the National Cathedral which was breathtakingly beautiful. Thank goodness we went to lunch after that because by then everyone was starving. We went to a restaurant with a nice ambiance and typical Costa Rican cuisine. I think just about everyone enjoyed their food which was served with pitchers of ice-cold exotic fruit juice.
After lunch we visited the History Museum. I asked the guide to please allow the group to walk through and look at everything at their own pace since there are placards in both English and Spanish at each exhibit (which was also the case at the Gold Museum). I think they enjoyed this museum much more for that reason. By the way, the 1st exhibit in this museum was a butterfly conservatory.
Our last stop was at a crafts market where the guide suggested an hour for shopping. But by then the students were a bit tired and grumpy so said 15 minutes was enough, to which I laughed because I knew it wasn't going to be nearly enough time. Once they entered they were amazed at all of the beautiful and colorful artwork in every material imaginable and they all had a ball haggling. They literally "shopped til they dropped." One full hour later they happily hopped on the bus and began showing each other what they'd bought and how much fun they had bargaining for lower prices.
Needless to say, everybody was pretty tired at the end of the day because we had walked several kilometers.
Monday was pretty uneventful as far as off-campus activities go, but they had the opportunity to meet and hang out with students from more universities that had arrived over the weekend.
Yesterday was the visit to the medical clinic which was very interesting. It's located in La Carpio, the same city made up mostly of Nicaraguan immigrants that we had visited for our day of service this past Saturday. Costa Rica was the 1st country in the hemisphere to provide universal healthcare. They abolished their army in 1948 and invested the money that had previously been spent on war into education and healthcare. Zoe even got the signature of the doctor that had given us the tour of the clinic and the explanation of their health care system. She'll turn the signed paper into the PA department for credit of some sort. We were all amazed at the efficiency of not only the clinic, but also of their entire healthcare system. The U.S. could learn a lot from them.
The students had another cooking class today but this time it started at 3:00 and they learned how to make one of Costa Rica's favorite desserts: empanadas. They are flaky turnovers filled with pineapple marmalade. They were really tasty!
After the cooking class they had planned to play soccer with students from Missouri, but unfortunately it started to pour down rain. It was the 1st heavy rainfall since we got here. We had lucked out for 10 days because when we got here we were told that this area of the central highlands has 2 seasons: rainy and rainier.
A group of our students had planned to tour a coffee plantation tomorrow after classes end at 2:30 but the weather forecast calls for more rain. So I imagine it will be cancelled. I do know they want to go out dancing again tomorrow night because they can't go out on Friday, their last night in San Joaquin. They all have to pack Friday night for the trip to the Arenal volcano and spa on Saturday. We have to be at the meeting point at 7:00a.m. And from there we go to the campus at Flamingo beach and new host families.
I really do think they are all enjoying this cultural immersion experience. Hopefully this program becomes as successful as the Mexico program because Spanish is such an important language to learn.