Costa Rica offers new adventures, knowledge for education students studying abroad

Baylor School of Education students in Costa Rica in 2019. Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By Rachel Royster | News Editor

Despite international conflict complicating many study abroad programs, School of Education students have an opportunity to travel safely to broaden their knowledge in Costa Rica.

The San Jose-based program partners with the National University of Costa Rica to provide a unique way to learn methods of teaching English as a second language.

Brownsboro master’s candidate Emma McNulty said she hopes to go on the trip and explore a new area of education in a non-traditional environment to “assist in pushing [participants] to new heights in teaching.”

“By participating in this program, I would be able to learn methods of how to teach English as a second language,” McNulty said. “This trip would be helpful in the way that it provides hands-on experiences and prepares us toward getting our ESL certificates before teaching.”

Director of Baylor Education in Costa Rica Rick Strot said the program pairs Baylor students with a Costa Rican peer, often resulting in unparalleled friendship. Additionally, students in the program stay with host families, immersing them in the Costa Rican culture.

“Baylor’s School of Education now has a strong university partner in Costa Rica for collaborations,” Strot said. “Many of the participants remain lifelong friends with their host families and university partners.”

Strot established the program 15 years ago in hopes of expanding the School of Education’s study abroad options. He said he was inspired to make Costa Rica the destination through his own travels and experiences with the local people.

“Costa Rica is a very safe and beautiful country,” Strot said. “They are passionately democratic and are unique in not having military forces. Costa Ricans, or Ticos, are closely connected to the USA in both economic and cultural areas. About one-third of the country is set aside as national parks and protected cloud forest.”

The study abroad trip consists of field experiences, a light course load and group travels. The excursions include visits to the Poas Volcano, La Paz Waterfall, a coffee factory and more.

Bryanne Mahon, a graduate assistant in the School of Education, said her fondest memory from when she went as an undergrad was “finding peace and relaxing in the ocean waves alongside breathtaking views.”

Mahon said the places she journeyed to were unlike anything she’d ever experienced before, especially the monkeys on the beaches stealing things from her towel while she was only a few feet away.

“Costa Rica is filled with beauty,” Mahon said. “The beaches had the prettiest sand, the clearest of blue waves and breathtaking views of nearby islands. These beaches were beautiful pockets of peace on the island. Unlike many other beaches I had been to, Costa Rican beach waves are not very strong. Instead, they lull you to sleep as you float in and out of the shore.”

School of Education students can register online and travel to Central America for the first summer session in June.

“I would 100% recommend this trip, especially to students wanting an experience in a classroom abroad,” Mahon said. “Living in one or two places and knowing just the things you read about is an OK start to understanding the world and its people, but the Costa Rica study abroad trip truly immerses you in the culture and beauty of another country. This country is teeming with life and rich history. This was a monthlong trip that was enthralling down to the second, and I am eager to return.”