Inspiration in Rancho Mastatal

26105980855_3df8a7f455_oGrowing up in a suburban community in Southern California, I had always believed that destroying nature was a consequence of our standard of living.

It was our third day in Costa Rica, by then we had already seen a tremendous amount of biodiversity on the car ride up to Mastatal, learned about different plants that grew well in Costa Rica in Siempre Verde, and even helped out on the farm. Those experiences all inspired me to one day return to Costa Rica to experience the beauty of Costa Rica, but our visit to Rancho Mastatal inspired me to come back to Mastatal not just for tourism but to actually pick up a new way of life.

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What Have I Cotton Myself Into?

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Do you ever really know something without experiencing it first?

That is the question that continued to appear in my mind as I went through challenging, yet thought-provoking experiences. After flying all night and spending the day driving up and down beautiful mountain ranges on bumpy dirt roads, I still had no idea what was in store for me during my time in Costa Rica. I knew we would be staying on a farm, but what does that mean? Will we be living among the farm animals and fruit trees? Where would we sleep? How will I survive with so little sleep?

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Truth or Dare: A Challenge by Choice

Marcos cuts a piece of sugar cane off for daring participant Danny.

Have you ever tried a food you’ve never had before or have you ever raced against a friend to see who was the fastest? Have you ever talked to a stranger or asked a random question in class? Have you have felt a bit of nervousness going into something and decided to do it anyway?

If so, then you have been challenged whether it was by yourself or by someone else. Whether or not you have chosen to partake in it and complete it was your choice and these choices are a part of who you are. Continue reading

The Bittersweet Truth

Cacao beans with grinding stones.

I wish someone had been more honest with me. Have you ever believed in something to be so true that you could almost taste it? As a child, your life was as sweet as the chocolate melting on your fingertips on a hot summer morning… But growing up, you come to realize that it really isn’t like that. Life is bitter and so is real chocolate. Continue reading

The First Costa Rica Night Fair

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Outreach is an important part of the Costa Rica Program and one of the ways we share our learning with the campus community is through a collaboration with UCI Dining & Hospitality. This year that collaboration led to our first ever Costa Rica Night Fair and small lunch promotion.

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Costa Rica Research Symposium 2015: Success!

Attendees gather around Ceci's presentation on education in Costa Rica.

The participants of the Costa Rica Program for 2015 studied a range of topics from animal migration to education, sustainable structures to health standards. Indeed, the bulk of the academic credit for the Costa Rica Program is awarded based on the research conducted in country. It is hardly surprising then that the team yielded vast sums of knowledge on a plethora of topics. These were all presented at the Costa Rica Program Research Symposium earlier this week, Monday, May 11th. Continue reading

The Four Farms of Mastatal

Markos and Erick investigate a pineapple crop.

It wasn’t until my time at Mastatal that I really saw the initiatives of global sustainability and cultural immersion intersect during this trip. It was there where one could rather clearly see the intimacy of community through the friendly encounters of the people of Mastatal. Sustainability was pervasive in the demands of everyday life, through emphasis on the minimization of impact on environment. Mastatal was a humble town of just a bit more than 120 residents. It was easy to walk along the main roads of Mastatal, even as part of a group that was visiting for a mere five days, to pass by someone who we’d previously met at the school or restaurant the day before. But what really tied it all together, through culture, sustainability, and community presence, were the four farms of Mastatal. Continue reading

The Magnificent Mangroves And Me

White Mangroves growing out of the water.There were a lot of things everyone was excited about throughout the Costa Rica trip. From homestays, food, and wildlife, it is not hard to imagine why we were excited. From the day I heard about the Costa Rica Program, I knew I was really excited about the cultural immersion aspect and learning about the wildlife in Costa Rica. However, as time went on and we learned more about the trip, I began to get excited about other things! In fact, a few hours before our flight, Jennifer asked the group what they were most excited about. From the top of my head, I knew I was most excited about ziplining and spending a night in the jungle since I believed those activities would give me a chance to learn about the wildlife and biodiversity in Costa Rica in an exciting way as well as a chance to get to challenge and get to know myself better because I would not normally do those things. Continue reading

Villas Mastatal

Sign reading 'Villas'At Villas Mastatal, an organic farm and education center, I saw many wonderful things and learned that when people get creative they are able to find multiple uses to everything in the world. Here, every item is unique in its own way and had more than one use such as the glass bottles, the food that became compost, and the trees that grew and produced food to eat and then was turned into compost. It all helps the environment, the people, the animals, and the insects. It’s like a cycle of life and it is amazing. The Ticos showed me how much of life they love. You’ll soon understand what I mean.  Continue reading