Studying abroad can be one of the most transformative experiences in a college career. But for students who have jam-packed schedules of balancing multiple labs and studio courses, coveted internships, and multiple extracurricular activities, going away for a whole semester doesn’t always seem feasible. At Jefferson, short courses or alternative break trips are great ways to fit studying abroad into any schedule! This week, Connor and Lauren are sharing how they spent their Winter break studying abroad in Costa Rica.
Studying abroad for an entire semester as a Pre-Med student can be quite difficult and a bit unrealistic. Thankfully, Jefferson provides students like us the opportunity to participate in short courses for credit over Winter break. Costa Rica is one of those options, so of course, we jumped at the opportunity to spend ten days fulfilling our wanderlust…and to escape the cold at home!
The trip consisted of not only six Biology and Pre-Med students, but also six Industrial Design students, as well as a professor from each department. Being able to learn and explore with peers of different majors was one of the highlights of the experience – you don’t typically see students of such different majors learning material that will help with both of their careers! Throughout the ten days, we all became surprisingly close, and not just in proximity with the close quarters we were in at all times of the day. It was so rewarding to learn more about people that we may have never met without this experience.
This particular short course focused on the topic of biomimicry, which is the process of observing biological processes in nature and conceptualizing them to fit into the built environment. Throughout our trip, we spent a lot of time hiking on trails in both the rainforest and dry forest, observing the varying ecosystems and seeing what different aspects of nature piqued our interest. We identified countless birds and plants and were lucky enough to encounter some of the classic mammals and reptiles in the area – Capuchin monkeys, the venomous fer de lance snake, an armadillo, iguanas and Ctenosauras, a peccary, and even a sloth!
Using our observations from each of the areas we explored, we spent some time researching how the plants and animals we saw function on a biological level. How do they survive in conditions that threaten their life? How do they thrive in the conditions that they are most adapted to? What are the most extreme conditions in which they can endure before experiencing loss of life? Groups of two Biology/Pre-Med majors and two Industrial Design majors aimed to tackle a topic related to climate change using the newfound knowledge of the environment in which we were observing. Even though our short course is over, we will continue to work in our groups throughout the semester to work on creating submissions for a biomimicry competition.
While field research was our main focus in Costa Rica, we still had plenty of time for fun activities like a day trip to the beach, where we ate lunch and dinner right on the beach, as well as snorkeling, shopping for souvenirs, and eating dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate our time together.
We would definitely go back in a heartbeat and encourage you to take advantage of the study abroad opportunities here, no matter how long you have. It’s always worth it!