Education Students Study Abroad At Costa Rica Center

Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: March 29, 2009

In January, 20 first-year Lohman Learning Community students from the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture (TLAC) in the College of Education and Human Development embarked on a week-long study-abroad trip to the village of San Isidro de Peñas Blancas in the Casa Verde region of Costa Rica.

The travelers were the first student group to visit the Texas A&M University Soltis Center for Research and Education (Costa Rica Center), a study abroad facility near San Isidro.

The trip, which was part of a multicultural education course, was designed to give pre-service teachers the opportunity to experience another culture and practice teaching English as a second language.

"I went on the trip to Costa Rica with the intention of teaching English to the kids and left having learned so much more from them than I ever expected," says Martha Kate Felts, freshman education major.

As part of a service-learning project, the student held English Camp for the Costa Rican children and parents of the local village school.

"The students, parents and teachers were so willing to learn and let us learn from them," says Erica De Luna, freshman special education major. "Teaching a language to a group of students that spoke hardly any English was a learning experience for future teachers. Alternative methods had to be used, such as hand motions and props, in order to communicate with the students."

De Luna noted that many of the children were eager to learn English so they could go to college in Costa Rica.

In addition to teaching English, the 20 TLAC students held a drive to collect books for the school prior to the trip. They gathered children's books in English and Spanish from publishers, local teachers and churches, but their largest supplier was Half Price Books in College Station.

"We did a little research and discovered we each could take an extra suitcase of books," says Edie Cassell, trip leader and clinical assistant professor. "Some students put books in their first suitcase, so we all flew with two 50-pound suitcases. We ended up with over 1,000 pounds of books."

Cassell says some students also carried school supplies, such as pens, pencils and paper, for the children.

"Someone brought the game Twister, which was a huge hit," she adds. "Twister is great for learning basic English-colors, body parts and directions. It's great for all ages."

The students also visited several spectacular natural sites, including La Fortuna waterfall and Arenal, an active volcano. They had the opportunity to go on a canopy tour, also known as zip-lining.

The Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Associate Provost for Academic Services at Texas A&M provided a $22,000 grant for the trip to encourage first-year students to engage in study abroad experiences.

"The culture, people and global issues I learned about helped me to realize the importance of traveling and the impact it can have on someone," said Meghan Brown, freshman education major. "I know my studies abroad will not end with Costa Rica, but will continue for many more trips."