Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Sophia in Costa Rica

Working the farm on campus Sophia '23 working on a hugelkultur bed at the Veritas garden with friends
March 25, 2023
Sophia Chen '23

Sophia '23, a biology major, studied abroad in Costa Rica.

 Studying abroad and living in a new country places you in an environment where you can choose to experience life and the world through a completely different lens. I learned that in order to fully immerse myself and grow from this experience, I needed to fully surrender. I needed to surrender my preconceived perceptions and the way my cultures view the world. Only after letting go of my perceptions did I realize that I will be able to understand the world from a new perspective. 

Personally, I grew up between Chinese and US culture and thought that I understood cultural differences well. However, being in costa Rica and learning about the local culture and contrasting it to my own background helped me deepen my understanding of myself and the cultures I have lived in. My time here has allowed me to reflect more on world events, history and the evolutions of society through a broader perspective. 

We are allowed into a paradise to escape from our lives back home. At least I know for me, I needed to run away, from my pattern of life and the Chicago winter. Being in your early 20s is a weird time in life, you are learning so much about the world and how to be yourself. I really appreciate being able to connect with people here going through the same thing. We are able to support each other by discussing our experiences while abroad and the struggles of figuring out life as a budding adult. It is a really beautiful experience to grow alongside people also going through the same. Being abroad took me out of my comfort zone and gave me new life lessons to learn from, such as making healthy choices and being patient with different perspectives. These life lessons pushed me to reflect, learn and grow. Now, I feel that I have more clarity in how I want to interact with society. Costa Rican culture has encouraged my interests in working in environmental justice and educational outreach. Through my classes, I learned that many researchers also conduct educational outreach in rural communities to help people understand the importance of protecting the environment. Their impact shows people that protecting the environment is everyone’s responsibility and creates change through the power of bottom up actions.  

 Lastly, in my note abroad, I would like to thank G. Dale Smith and Ruth Peterson Smith for supporting my study abroad semester. The Smith Endowed Scholarship Fund for International Study Abroad Programs helped alleviate financial stress and made this experience possible. I would also like to express gratitude to Allie Olson, Dr. Westley and Dr. Barbosa for supporting my decision in coming to Costa Rica. 

Adventuring in Monteverde Cloud Forest:

 adventuring in monteverde cloud rain forest

2 monkeys and 3 vultures having a discussion while birdwatching in Uvita: