Traveler’s Spotlight – Guest Starring Christina Ong

As a top research institution, the University of California, Irvine prides itself on the ambition, passion, and quest for knowledge that lies within all of its students.  The 18 inspired students chosen for the university’s Costa Rica Program, now in its third year, are proof that impactful teaching leads to a greater curiosity for the world around us.  All 18 students represent a variety of majors, including political science, environmental science, and business economics.

The 2014 Costa Rica Program students and professional staff members

The 2014 Costa Rica Program students and professional staff members

The Costa Rica Program, in a nutshell, is an educational and cultural immersion experience that occurs during UCI’s Spring Break.  17 students and 1 student coordinator learn about global sustainability and environmental issues by traveling to Rancho Mastatal, a sustainable and environmental learning center in Puriscal County, Costa Rica and to Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge.  While in Rancho Mastatal, students stay on a sustainable farm in open-air buildings, spend a night in the jungle, use composting toilets, conduct service work in the rural community school, and stay for two nights with locals in a homestay program.

Throughout their time in Costa Rica, all students conduct self-directed research projects on topics of their choice.  This year, students are studying aquaponics, the impacts of deforestation on soil quality, rural education systems, human waste composting, and much more.  The Costa Rica Program is unique in that it is prefaced by a for-credit course that covers Costa Rican culture, environmental sustainability, and global leadership.  Through the course, participants have conducted a field excursion and service project at the university’s Arboretum where they learned about local habitats and native species.  Additionally, upon returning from Costa Rica, all students are expected to share their research and trip experiences with at least 500 other individuals after their trip.

One participant diligently removes native, invasive species from the UCI Arboretum

One participant diligently removes native, invasive species from the UCI Arboretum

The program has had much success in the past, providing students with opportunities to connect to nature and their communities in ways they had not been able to before.  Previous participants have been recommitted to their passions and found ways to live with more consideration for the environment and our global community.

The 2013 trip student coordinator returns to the program to present on environmental sustainability to our 2014 students

The 2013 trip student coordinator returns to the program to present on environmental sustainability to our 2014 students

The Costa Rica Program reached out to Feelgoodz because of how their mission aligns with the program.  Feelgoodz’s commitment to human empowerment through fair wages and sustainably sourced, natural materials matches the program’s goals to spread awareness about how sustainability encompasses environmental justice and poverty alleviation.  Additionally, flip-flops are a staple in the communities we visit.  Their supply of Classicz, made from natural rubber, will be gratefully received by the community members in Mastatal. The Costa Rica Program participants are all extremely excited to have Feelgoodz as a sponsor of the Costa Rica Program because of their dedication to making sustainability a staple in the footwear industry.

2014 participants posing proudly with Feelgoodz Cinnaflopz

2014 participants posing proudly with Feelgoodz Cinnaflopz

 

For more information about The Costa Rica Program, please visit: http://sites.uci.edu/costaricaprogram/ or “Like” the program page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UCICostaRicaProgram.

Stay tuned for our Post-Trip Update!!

-Christina

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