Costa Rica Explorations program’s curriculum is designed to nurture participating students’ individual growth. Students are challenged to become more independent and to recognize their potential and their value as global leaders in our diverse world.
Through the program’s cross-cultural experiences and daily reflection, students’ perspectives of the world are broadened. They recognize the core values of respect, responsibility, love, appreciation, kindness, teamwork, compassion, hard work, honesty, humor and humility are consistent across cultures. They also learn that contentment is not about the amount of things you possess, but about the type of person you choose to become. This helps students to prioritize their personal and life goals.
Through service-learning, team-building, and adventure activities, Students discover strengths and skills within themselves that allow them to recognize their ability to make significant contributions to society as educated members of the world.
Through authentic homestay experiences and interaction with Costa Rican peers, students understand the importance of applying their knowledge of the Spanish language. The more you are able to comprehend and to communicate, the understanding of one another’s ideas deepens. Students realize that communication is key to making change, and many students are motivated to continue their Spanish language studies upon returning home.
For a vast majority of students, this program is their first experience traveling internationally independent of their family. Students gain confidence in themselves and others around them, and discover that they are capable of caring for themselves and, when needed, receiving care from others. Many students return home appreciative of their home environment and are grateful for the support they have been given.
For some students this experience is their first time holding a passport and traveling internationally. They develop important life skills and discover an appreciation of travel. Students learn that there is a whole world out there waiting to be discovered and being able to experience it in person is extremely impactful.
A seed has been planted with students, which motivates them to want to continue learning more about themselves, to appreciate different cultures and countries, and to positively contribute to the world.
How does student growth happen?
Supportive Group Dynamics
Our Costa Rica Explorations leaders are trained in group leadership methods that give them the skills to create a safe and open environment in which students feel comfortable stretching themselves and sharing their experiences. Cross-cultural workshops, team-building dynamics, and leadership-development exercises provide opportunities for students to step out of their comfort zone in order to grow as individuals and to recognize their strengths and abilities as productive members of a group.
Students are encouraged by our program guides to take on daily leadership roles and responsibilities, to develop their own meaningful group reflection questions, and to take ownership in the facilitation of daily group activities and discussions.
Intentional reflection activities are programmed throughout the Costa Rica Explorations itinerary to allow for students to explore and reflect upon their personal development in a safe environment. Taking time to pause and reflect upon strategic topics is key to the growth of each individual.
Students are given the tools and time and are encouraged to analyze their individual development by means of group reflection circles, personal reflection and daily journal entries.
Service-learning activities allow students to understand first hand their potential in creating positive change. Students work side-by-side community members to achieve goals. They use their skills and knowledge to help make the community in which they are staying a better place.
Authentic Cross-Cultural Experiences – Homestays and School Visits
Students have the opportunity to experience authentic Costa Rican culture by living within the home of a Costa Rican family. This element of the program allows students to experientially discover a new culture. They are able to observe and participate in Costa Rican daily life activities through conversations, meals, and typical family activities and interactions. Students are able to reflect upon their own culture and experience what life is like in a new culture. Their discoveries of the similarities and differences in comparing cultures is extremely powerful.
In the majority of Costa Rica Explorations programs, students have the opportunity to visit and to participate in a Costa Rican school day with Costa Rican peers. They are able to shadow a Costa Rican peer within their school day observing the similarities and differences of the two school cultures. Through exchange activities students are able to interact and learn from one another and most likely make new international friendships.
Examples of Trip Impact on Students
Here are some testimonials representing student growth:
“I realize now how important service is in my life and how being passionate about my goals is how I can accomplish them.” – Madeline
“I learned to be more confident in myself and felt like I was really making a difference.” – Betsy
“I now have more ease in communicating with others.” – Allie
“This trip has taught me the importance of community, which I can take back home to my school and family. I also learned how communication is more than just words.” – Emma
“I met great people and did new things. This trip made me want to travel even more.” – Carla
“I think this trip has made me more thoughtful of other people. I will try to help people more in the future.” – William
“The service project made me feel like I had an impact on their life. I discovered I want to do it again.” – Darta
“It made me appreciate my family and way of living – I take a lot for granted. Also the importance of reuse, repurpose and want for less.” – Beth
“I have had a lot of questions about what my future will be and the questions were answered. It will be a reminder of what truly makes me happy.” – Lauren
“It helped me get out of my comfort zone.” – Molly
“This trip has made me more confident.” – Dane
“I hope to continue to use my Spanish in college and abroad.” – Danielle
“Gained perspective, more grateful for family, want to learn Spanish.” – Jaqueline
“Helped me grow as a person, learn more about what I am truly passionate about, and become even more adventurous.” – Grace
“My outlook on life is more positive.” – Lauren
“It helps me to be more thankful for what I have.” – Josh
“It expanded my comfort zone a lot. I think the homestay experience will help me be less anxious around new people.” – Adrianna
“It helped me better my Spanish, helped me understand a different culture, and reaffirmed my desire to study Spanish in college.” – Anna
“This trip taught me that the world is bigger than the little bubble we put ourselves in and to look at the best in others.” – David
“It gave me a new perspective on life and a new love for different cultures.” – Bridgit