EARTH University, or Universidad EARTH as it is known to the “Ticos," served as my home for two months during the summer of 2013. "Tico" is slang for a Costa Rican native and Escuela de Agricultura de Region Tropicos Humidos (EARTH), translates as “The Agricultural School of the Humid Tropics.” The EARTH University exchange program stimulated my intellect, while providing me with an opportunity to explore the wide range of ecosystems found in Costa Rica.
EARTH University offers students 3-credit courses focusing on Environmental Studies over the summer. I participated in a course led by a former Nobel Peace Prize winner entitled, "Carbon, Climate, and Livelihoods." Amidst breathtaking scenery, my classmates and I participated in compelling discussions on carbon emissions and brainstormed solutions to the climate change dilemma. This course also satisfied my need for learning that takes place outside of the classroom. I measured plots in various categories of tropical rainforest on a daily basis.
This program challenged me academically, as well as socially, by putting me in an environment where I interacted with over 400 students from 33 countries across the globe. I befriended other students from a variety of African and Latin American countries; like my friends Nahom and Addisu from Ethiopia, Lucia from Belize, and Adrian and Markus from Costa Rica, just to name a few. Although playing the extrovert was difficult at times when interacting with internationals, I found the exposure rewarding and realized that the students studying at EARTH are not much different from my friends and I here at UMD - we just utilize a different language.
The program was pre-planned with several short trips designed to experience as much of Costa Rica as possible. Excursions ranged from a one-day tour of an organic pineapple and banana plantation, to a four-day tour through what is commonly referred to as Central America's Amazon; located between the river and the Caribbean Sea. I had the privilege of seeing more of Costa Rica in two months than most Costa Ricans see in their lifetimes! While at a research station called La Selva, my group and I came face-to-face with a family of howler monkeys traversing down a suspension cable of the main bridge, which brought a girl named Nina to tears. The education I received - both in and out-side of the classroom - have provided me with lifelong memories. Indeed, it is only a matter of time until I make my return.
I recommend this trip to any of my fellow classmates who have not had the opportunity to study abroad, and I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about EARTH University and the summer program. You can reach me by email at garrettbyron [at] gmail.com (.)