My 20 students spent 3 and a half weeks in Costa Rica, living with host families in the Pacific coast beach community of Sámara. Each student took 56 hours of Spanish language and Costa Rican culture classes at Intercultura Spanish School. Students took courses according to their language level, which ranged from low intermediate to high advanced.
In addition, my students volunteered 30-40 hours at Asociación CREAR, a supplemental education non-profit organization founded and directed by one of my former Austin College students and mentees, Andrea Keith ’07. My JanTerm students helped run two summer camps, one for about 25 children in Sámara, and another for 30 children in a smaller nearby village, El Torito. AC students organized and ran a field day, helped with surf lessons, helped the kids make masks and many other craft items, played basketball, soccer, four square, and many other games. For the Costa Rican kids, it is their summer vacation, and these summer camps are often the only organized group activities they have for summer enrichment.
Finally, my students and I immersed ourselves in a number of local cultural experiences, including the annual festival for the neighboring town of Santa Cruz, where students rode rides, danced to great cumbia music, and got to experience the realities of a town festival that locals had saved up all year to celebrate. Near the ending of the course, we spent two days on Isla Venado, a geographically remote area where local family have come together to promote rural tourism as secondary revenue stream, in addition to their primary one, fishing. On this island of a thousand inhabitants, we stayed in their community center and played, danced, ate and shared daily life with local families. Some kayaked, other fished on a small lancha and caught puffer and other fish.
All in all, it has been an incredibly rich experience for all involved.