This isn’t my first trip abroad, or to Costa Rica even. I actually spent nearly 2 months in Costa Rica on a study abroad experience in my undergrad career. So I’ll admit that I wasn’t entirely too concerned or uninformed of what was about to take place. However, this did not necessarily mean that I was calm, cool, and collected in my whole preparation.
When I went 5 years ago, I read up on Costa Rica beforehand, took several days off just to pack and double check my lists, and got to spend the 4th of July holiday with my family before leaving. I just really mentally prepared myself before embarking. On the other hand, with this UGA Coffee in Costa Rica trip, I had been so busy with school and work, that I had pushed it to the back of my mind. (I tried to causally write it off as “It’s only 9 days.”) Then, all of a sudden, it was here, and I had to be packed to leave for Costa Rica in 3 days! I even had to give a presentation on my research literally hours before I got on my flight. Everything about this trip was a little more strung together at the last minute sort of situation. So that meant for a more stressful last 24 hours of packing and getting around logistically at airports. This UGA Coffee Tour was also quite a different schedule of events and climate than what I had experienced on my previous study abroad there. So I was just as mentally unprepared about what all I needed to pack. In hind sight, my last experience tainted my frame of thought of what I needed to bring, and I ended up really over-packing. Note to future students: Just pack less, but leave luggage room for coffee.
Also in comparison, my last Costa Rica experience was just rather unscheduled with the free range of “go see the country” and “immerse yourself in the culture” sort of thing. Whereas, the UGA Coffee Tour is strictly focused around coffee and most days are tightly scheduled from sun-up to sunset. This experience is totally based around learning more about the agricultural processes, cultural society surrounding, tasting techniques, and biochemistry of coffee. So I feel that the UGA Coffee in Costa Rica tour is more unique in that it is much more dense and immersive with a detailed learning structure than my previous one. With this type of study abroad, a person can learn much more in 9 days about a single process that some students might learn in weeks in an unstructured environment.
Why am I going? I am an avid coffee drinker and lover. I am a food scientist and am generally interested in the science and general socio-economics surrounding this world-altering product. I also want to gain a deeper knowledge and appreciation for this Latin American society that I have experienced before. I want to see the side of agricultural practices and beliefs of this very eco-friendly and “green” country. This campus location is up in the mountain rainforests of Costa Rica which is an environment that I did not see before. Lastly, and probably most importantly, just to re-sharpen (as iron sharpens iron) my adventurous spirit that wants to seek out and know more about the world and its cultures. I don’t want to become too hulled into my comfort zone, and I needed to be reminded about that it is good to break free and put oneself in new, uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations sometimes.