Going into the trip, I believed I was in for a relaxing two weeks after a grueling past semester. I expected to learn bundles about the country and birds and enjoy every moment, but I did not expect the experience to change my outlook on my future. I have always known I wanted my future to include lots of travel, yet now I am seeking ways to incorporate it into my major and earlier life. One such way is finally learning Spanish and French fully to not only make myself more desirable to future employers or not feel foolish misunderstanding people, but to be able to carry long meaningful conversations with new people. I have always been told that people who speak more than English even think differently because in many languages, others rely on a smaller vocabulary and larger use of emphasis and emotion.

The trip definitely instilled in me that I am truly ignorant to the rest of the world.  I was reminded how big a role agriculture plays around the world and that even smaller countries can face immigration problems. Costa Rica can serve as a model for many other parts of the world with their low healthcare cost, focus on education and environmental conservation, but there is a much lower average income and they sacrificed their defense budget. Still, their booming tourism industry is primarily ecotourism and it has, to the delight of conservationists, positively influenced the restoration efforts and mass recycling efforts around the country. Fun fact, I accidentally grabbed a straw at one point only to later realize upon my return to America, it was biodegradable! They are on track to be carbon neutral by 2021 and are increasingly taking land from being depleted agricultural wasteland to secondary and one day primary growth rainforest. We were able to see many effects of climate change firsthand, learn about the work being done to combat it at La Selva Biological Station.

A much more subtle take away of mine is how much happier and unburdened by even everyday stresses people were. They do not move at the lightspeed the United States feels like. I would like to take that calm and apply it to my academics, even if it seems like days are passing by and nothing can change, in 20 years I do not want to look back and remember myself constantly locked in a study bubble.  This maymester gave me access to travel and established professionals I would otherwise have been none the wiser to. My learning style allowed me to absorb more practical knowledge in two weeks than I could dream of learning in that same time in a classroom.  I am motivated to spend less time focusing on a full resume and more on, joining a research team, making time for the farmers market, having experiences like this one that I can passionately rave about. Seeing the disappearing cloud forests and having my teacher struggle to find a bird supposedly prevalent five years ago is a wake-up call that a classroom cannot make. The trip reminded me of who I am at heart and how much I love being out in the world and not glued to my phone or my laptop, that all the beauty is around me if I would go out and find it.