Costa Rica - INCAE Sustainability Study Abroad
Costa Rica is an amazing country. I traveled the week before class with my family, experiencing all the ecotourism the country has to offer. We waterfall rappelled, whitewater rafted, rode hoseback, zip lined, and explored Manuel Antonio National Park's wildlife and beaches.
The next two weeks were full of interesting and intensive learning about sustainability at INCAE, a premier Latin American business school in Alajuela, Costa Rica. I particularly enjoyed being on a team of 3 Carlson and 4 INCAE students. We represented Dole company, and were tasked with finding new, viable sustainability options for the company within Dole or with other company groups in the class. My knowledge of Spanish did help in various instances while in Costa Rica, but certainly was not necessary for the class as all students (from all over Central and South America) knew English very well.
We got to know our INCAE and Carlson classmates quite well inside and outside of class.
Our team even took a trip for dinner out to a Mexican restaurant near campus. Also, on a fee Sunday I went to Playa Hermosa (a black sand surfing beach) with classmates for the day.
The food always delicious, but be prepared to have much more rice and beans than you would probably eat on a regular basis in the U.S. It was also very good at the weekend excursion I went on.
I decided to test my Spanish knowledge and go on a Spanish tour. Friday we went to two family coffee farms and stayed at the gorgeous University of Georgia research station in San Luis. At the research station students from Central Iowa were collecting bats with nets across the walkway to the buildings with our rooms. They were kind enough to let us take a peek at one of the bats they caught. Saturday we hiked about an hour and a half out to a beautiful waterfall (or cataract) on a nice trail in the jungle that included one person at a time half-log "bridges" over streams. That afternoon we visited the Monteverde cheese factory, tasted some cheeses, and learned about the Quaker history that started the Monteverde Cheese Factory.
Throughout the second week of class we took a couple more trips. This time we visited a Rainforest Alliance certified coffee farm that supplies Caribou Coffee along with people that represent each part of the coffee process from growing until it is in Caribou shops. Then we visited The Butterfly Farm and spoke with one of the owners who started the butterfly industry in Costa Rica. Who would have thought that butterflies are an industry?
After giving our final presentations and taking the final exam, we said our goodbyes. Some left for home and others stayed to travel after the class finished.
I learned quite a bit, had a lot of fun, and made many new friends I hope to keep for years to come.