I traveled with fourteen students and one other adult to Costa Rica for my second service-learning trip. I was eager to go to the places we ventured before and look at them at a deeper level. Without everything being so new, I wondered what I missed the first time around that I would see this time.
One of the things I was most eager to see is how our students will fare without cell phones for nearly two weeks. In the time leading up to the trip, they spent some time reflecting on this. While there was some anxiety about not being connected in a virtual sense, students really enjoyed a different and perhaps more authentic sense of connection with one another.
For me, the first trip to Costa Rica opened my eyes to a whole different kind of travel. Before going on the trip, I saw an ideal trip as one where I could see some landmarks or sleep in the sun (and, don’t get me wrong, I will never turn down a day at the beach). After the trip, I realized that what I had most enjoyed was getting to know members of the local community and seeing plants and wildlife I had never seen before. It hit me that travel isn’t just about relaxing and taking photos, it is about working to understand a world different than our own.
On this trip, we get to experience so many different regions and ecosystems in Costa Rica. It is truly eye-opening. As we learn about the country’s efforts in environmental sustainability during every stop, our students had the opportunity to understand the fragility of our environment, the wonder of a diverse ecosystem, and what can be accomplished when leaders in government, industry, and science come together to solve problems. Our service work was largely environmental—trail work, beach clean-ups, and some community resource work in our homestay community. I look forward to watching our inspired students use what they learned about sustainability in Costa Rica and apply it back at home.