Finding My Way in Costa Rica

by Rachel Kowal, Costa Rica Tropical Ecology Study Abroad Participant

There are many things I could say about Costa Rica.  However I will pick a few experiences to talk about. I believe your experiences are what define you in life, and this experience has definitely altered how I look at the world. There was so much about the culture there that I didn’t know about, but I learned quickly. Especially at Monte Verde. This is where in my mind our group became like family. We opened up and explored into town, ate the food of the locals and just bonded. I became close with people I would have never otherwise. The culture there is so unlike our own that you sometimes need to take a step back and remember, this is no weird this is just different from what I’m used to. There were a lot of times I had to do that.


One of the things I will never forget was white water rafting. I am terrified of heights so I had a panic attack and couldn’t do the zip line. I however did do the rafting. This was so much fun and not as scary as I thought it was going to be. Although jumping off a cliff was still terrifying because of my fear of heights. But I did it, I jumped off the cliff into the slightly cold water and swam to the rafts and got in. This was the beginning of the long journey down the river. I think the thing I will remember the most about this is our raft guide, Daniel. He really made the trip what it was. He and the other raft guide Luis would try to knock each other’s rafts in. It was so funny when they would push someone into the water. Well until it’s you then it’s not as funny. I cannot wait to go white water rafting again. This experience taught me I can’t let my fears hold me back and I just need to take baby steps until I overcome them. Maybe next time I will go zip lining.

I think the thing that surprised me the most is how well they have protected their lands and not destroyed as much as we have for industry. Their country is beautiful because of all the biodiversity and nature. I have never seen so many bird species in my life, the amount of hummingbirds alone was incredible. This trip just makes me want to strive harder to protect what little nature we have left here in America. One day I will open my own rescue just like the owner of the Toucan Rescue did. I will do my part to conserve what we have left and educate people. I might not have baby sloths like she does to influence people but I do have a lot of gained knowledge from this experience and I have my passion to guide me.

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I think this trip really told me that this is what I need to be doing with my life. Trying to make the world a better place for the nature that we still have remaining. I know that I will be able to use this experience for years to come in order to achieve my goals. However, none of this would have been possible without the help of my scholarship. So thank you to everyone who made it possible to have this wonderful experience. I will forever be grateful.

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