by Meredith Hoffman, Costa Rica Tropical Ecology Study Abroad Participant
As a student- athlete here at Georgian Court, there was always one thing I wanted to experience before I graduated college, and that was to study abroad. With the help and encouragement from fellow colleagues and passionate professors, my dream came true. I never knew if I would have the opportunity to travel abroad while being so busy with my academics and sports team. This Easter Break  I traveled to Costa Rica with fourteen colleagues and two professors to study Tropical Rainforest Ecology.
There were so many mixed emotions flowing through my body; from anxiety, stress, and of course, excitement! My brother traveled to Peru for six months while in college as a student-athlete as well, and hearing amazing stories about his experience and journey in a different country really pushed me to go through with this journey. I never dreamed that I would ever gain the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica to experience a new culture, new surroundings, new people, and new studies, and to finally share my memories and new experiences with my family and friends. Being able to have the roles reversed and share the amazing opportunity was absolutely amazing!
While in Costa Rica, my fellow colleagues and I were assigned a research project for our Tropical Ecology course. Samantha, Lesly, and I chose to study the different types of flowers and pollinators attracted to each flower species. Although the hard work and thought put into the research proposal was stressful, doing the research with Samantha and Lesly was amazing. One amazing experience I gained from this trip was the new knowledge and insight from different perspectives of my fellow classmates, especially these two young women.
Some say, “you don’t actually experience the beauty of nature until you are one with nature.” After hiking through several rain forests and walking over every suspension bridge, I believe that I have finally experienced the beauty of nature. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but there is no other way to experience the beauty of nature than being apart of it. Traveling to three different parts of Costa Rica [Monte Verde, Arenal, and La Selva] has opened a new door in my future to travel and experience nature in other parts of the world.
Another unforgettable memory of this trip was flying over the canopies of the trees in the rain forest of Monte Verde and seeing the world from a different perspective, a perspective I never thought I would ever see the world from, zip lining in the clouds. There was apart of me that never felt so happy I was so high in the sky where I put all the problems away for a minute and just enjoyed the beauty of the world from on top!
I always have adrenaline running through my body while experiencing something new for the first time, but the adrenaline rushing through my body before zip lining was almost unbearable. That unbearable adrenaline rush was probably the first and last time such a feeling can be life changing! To say this opportunity to travel abroad and experience amazing places, people, culture and nature were life changing is probably an extreme understatement. Life moves too quickly and if an opportunity of a “lifetime” comes available, take that chance and run with it!