Costa Rica 2010

Cohort VI

From January 2-14, the twenty first-year students of Cohort VI traveled to Costa Rica. The trip was led by Program Director Gisella Gisolo; Rick Weisman, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Teaching Fellow Jennifer Hyest.


Trip highlights:

  • Ecotourism in San Luis: lecture on the principles of "ecotourism" and first-hand experience of an ecotourist facility
  • Tour of local coffee processing operations, hands-on coffee picking, and lecture on "fair trade" coffee
  • Bird-watching in the rain forest and walk to the waterfalls in San Luis  
  • Visit to a gold mine in Las Juntas and tour of family-run gold-making small businesses
  • Tour of salt and shrimp farms in Colorado de Abangares
  • Meeting with subsistence farmers and visit to a women artisans' cooperative
  • Boat tour of the Tempisque River in Palo Verde National Park
  • Tour of the Intel plant/innovation center
  • Visit to the UN-sponsored University of Peace in San Jose
  • Talk with Cefemina NGO in defense of women rights
  • Visit to the National Gold Museum
  • Visit to the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica (INBio)



"The first time I felt like I was pointed out as a tourist was when we visited the gold mines in Las Juntas.  To reach the mines we had to abandon the safety of our bus and split into various taxis.  My taxi consisted of the driver and about six other girls, which was a little nerve-wrecking considering we had no idea where we were which forced us to rely on a complete stranger.  We were the first ones to arrive in our location and when we dismounted the car I noticed that we were surrounded by gold miners.  I did not notice that they were staring intently at us until someone discretely brought it to my attention.  I could not help but wonder why they were staring at us and then I noticed the differences between us and them. Their clothes were drenched in rusty water, they were dirty and tired.  We on the other hand, were looking fresh and clean in our stylish clothing and excited for our “adventure.”  I felt like a complete outsider, looking in on a life that was not meant for excitement but fear.  While we were just passing by, they were stuck in the gold mines for many hours of the day in order to make a living.  The fact that we were presented with helmets and waterproof boots made us stand out even more because some of the workers were not provided with the same equipment.  They were required to risk their lives with or without protection while we were given the protection and were denied entry into the further parts of the mines, due to safety issues.  It was completely obvious that I was a foreigner." -Vanessa Rodriguez, Cohort VI


"Imagine watermelon in a shade of artificial pink sprinkled with the perfect amount of seeds evenly distributed among each cube. Then picture eggs that do not need of salt and coffee that requires half the amount of sugar usually used. As hard as it may be to imagine this collection of food could exist in a single setting, this was my first breakfast in San Luis, Costa Rica. At home we eat breakfast daily, barely looking at the cereal box or eggs on our plate; we eat excess food so regularly that it doesn’t even faze us that it is a privilege to eat breakfast each day. For some reason, as we ate our first breakfast in Costa Rica we couldn’t help but notice that we were eating breakfast because it was unlike any breakfast experience we’ve encountered. We couldn’t help but notice the richness in each bite, the exotic colors, and the elaborate arrangement of food on the serving trays. We stopped and looked at the world around us and tasted it; we weren’t just passersby but witnesses to our experiences and we realized how appreciative we actually should be. Part of being a global citizen is having awareness of problems and cultures around the world, not necessarily taking part in other groups’ practices but instead showing respect and acceptance of these practices. Noticing the extreme tastes in this meal is representative of this idea of awareness. Trying foods from another culture represents this idea of cultural consciousness." -Joelle Dorskind, Cohort VI


"While at the coffee farm we picked some coffee. There were 8-10 people in our specific group picking coffee, and after 45 minutes, we were starting to get tired.  Once we finished, we dumped all of our pickings into a big basket and looked with pride what we did.  After some convincing, we got the owner of the farm, who was picking alongside us, to let us see what he had picked.  In the same amount of time that we had, he did more work than our entire group combined.  I feel that it was his spirit (and his skill) that allowed him to pick with such quickness.  He embodied “pura vida” in his attitude, and this was something that I continued to see throughout the country." -Joel van de Rijn, Cohort VI









from left to right:

Walking along the salt farm in Abangares

Learning about sugar cane

Hiking and swimming among waterfalls

At University of Peace