Tuesday 11 Sep, 2012

Costa Rica: The Aftermath

Libby S. is a high school teacher and new EF Group Leader from the United States. She recently led a group of students on the Costa Rica: A Touch of the Tropics tour. Here she writes about her amazing experience in Costa Rica and how much she enjoyed travelling with her students. The original post can be found on her personal blog, Fountain. Check it out – there are lots of insightful and inspiring posts!

I have been home from our travels to Costa Rica for almost two weeks. I’ve been pondering it and attempting to grasp the depth of the trip and experience.

Here’s what I know (in no particular order of importance):

1.  Costa Rica is beautiful, simply beautiful. Abundant, rolling green hills with volcanoes in the background. Lush rain, cloud, & dry forests. Unique, bright plants. Never before seen animals. Delicious, foreign fruits. It’s a feast for the eyes.

Arenal Volcano

Rambutan, an exotic fruit of Costa Rica. The white part (minus the pit inside) is edible.

2. I spoke Spanish.  I spoke a decent amount of Spanish. I conversed with native Spanish speakers….and they understood me. I translated for fellow travellers. This means (drum roll please) I really do know Spanish. The words I’ve learned and the words I’ve taught students…they were the right words. Students spoke Spanish. They spoke more than they thought they would. It was awesome. How much more practical, rigorous, & relevant could it get. After this trip, I think of myself more as a Spanish teacher than as an English teacher. Isn’t that awesome?!

One of our students speaks with a student at El Dos school

 One of our students reads to Alondra at El Dos

3.  I teach the best students in the world. Our high school travellers were so much fun to be around. They have so much energy & excitement. Curiosity abounded; questions flew. Friendships amongst peers deepened and relationships and understandings between students and teachers increased. Spending 9 days, 24 hours a day with students was exhilarating, exasperating, and excellent. Truly, I love and respect these 19 students so much more. I’m honoured I was able to be a driving force behind an important, life-changing, fun experience for them.

All of the students in front of Poas Volcano

4. I work with great people. My “wife” on the trip (the other female chaperone) was a former colleague who now teaches at a neighbouring school district. She and I were a great couple and balance for each other. She understood Spanish when I didn’t and vice versa. She thought of things I didn’t and vice versa. She mellowed me out when I needed to be mellowed out. She was the perfect roommate for me on this trip. The other chaperone provided endless moments of comedy, bursts of laughter, and practicality. His appreciation of this trip, support throughout it, and humour and attitude with students meant a lot to me throughout the trip. I know he’ll retire to Costa Rica so “wife” and I can come visit regularly.

The chaperones

5.  The experience is powerful. Only 1 or 2 of the students had travelled outside the country before. Some had never flown. Some had never seen the ocean or swam in it. Most had never been in an environment where English isn’t spoken. None of them had seen a volcano before. Only 1 or 2 had ziplined before….let alone 600 feet in the air on top of the rainforest. The things you learn about language, culture, yourself, and the world are hopefully lessons students will take with them the rest of their lives. Hopefully, this experiences ignites a fire in them to see the world. There is so much of it to explore!

Pacific Ocean at sunset

Poas Volcano

La Fortuna Waterfall

So many have said to me in recent months and weeks that I’m crazy. They shake their head. Their eyes widen. They are baffled.

How could I ever travel with high school students? Why in the world would I want to do this?

Bottom line. They don’t understand. They don’t understand #1-5 above.

They don’t know what they are missing.


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