Over halfway through our study abroad trip in Costa Rica we entered my favorite ecosystem I had seen so far: the cloud forest. We stayed at Monteverde, which aptly means Green Mountain. There fog is trapped among the canopy, and despite Costa Rica being a tropical country, the temperature didn’t leave the 60’s (F). This location was a travel hub for tourists from all over the world, and rightly so. Rare wildlife lived in this delicate ecosystem, chief among them being the resplendent quetzal, a red-breasted bird with glossy green feathers and a great, flowing tail. We were also able to see emerald toucanets (basically cute tiny toucans), Capuchin monkeys, and the three wattled bell bird, which makes a machine-like sound that echoes through the forest. Spider monkeys played in the trees outside as we ate breakfast, and a coati foraged for food just a few feet away. The amount of vegetation covering every square inch of landscape was remarkable; ferns, orchids, and mosses hung from every rock and tree.

Over the next week, we traveled to many other locations, each providing new wildlife, scenery, and experiences. I saw crocodiles fighting in the river at Caño Negro, and came face to face with the highly venomous fer-de-lance viper at La Selva Biological Reserve. Eventually, I found myself in the capital city of San José, getting ready to board a plane that would take me back to the US. There I looked back at the exciting time I had spent in Costa Rica over the last two weeks. I had seen beautiful and diverse wildlife, learned about an entirely new culture, and gotten out of my comfort zone by meeting new people and exploring new places. Looking back, I know I’ll never forget the time I spent in Costa Rica. Now I’m grateful for the opportunity to look forward.