Over Spring Break of 2018, I participated in a study abroad program titled “Sustainable Service Learning in Costa Rica.” Throughout the duration of the trip, the group visited various local and organic farms, studying sustainable agricultural practices. We interacted with native and local people throughout the trip, and for several days we stayed with a local family to really experience the culture.
A saying called “Pura Vida” is commonly and regularly used throughout Costa Rica and it translates to “Pure life.” While this saying could mean something different to everyone, in its essence, it is a reminder to find the beauty of every moment in life. In Costa Rica, you could really sense that people lived by this saying. It is a reminder to not sweat the small stuff–negative things may happen in your lifetime but ultimately, they are not significant in the grand scheme of life. Life is short and beautiful, and you have to remember to embrace each moment, person, and experience. I really think that I will carry this saying with me throughout my life, remembering the beauty in everything I encounter.
In addition, I think that studying abroad allowed me to broaden my perspective of the world and experience a completely different culture and way of life. It is amazing how you can get so wrapped up in your own daily life, and forget that there are completely different and other ways of experiencing existence. This trip really opened my mind and eyes to this fact, and allowed me to experience a different perspective on a meaningful life…one without the competition, pressure, fast pace, and consumptive attitude that society in America has.
Several moments during the trip stand out as transformative or enlightening experiences. One would be the homestay families that we had the pleasure of staying at. For several nights, we stayed with a native family on their rural farm in Costa Rica, and this was truly enlightening. It was amazing to see how simply and authentically these families lived…they didn’t have many possessions or a fancy house, but they had a lot of love. It really made me consider what a happy or meaningful life is…it’s not about fame, money, or possessions, but rather to live harmoniously with others and the environment.
In addition, it was inspiring to visit many organic and local farms throughout the trip, and observe firsthand many of the sustainable agriculture practices being implemented. They had a relationship to the land that was not one of exploitation, but rather a give-and-take relationship that ensured healthy people and a healthy planet. I really hope to implement this mindset and these practices into America’s agricultural system.
Lastly, interacting and communicating with the local people was a really enlightening experience. Although I am not perfect at speaking Spanish, I did find that I remembered a lot of the language once I was immersed in a Spanish-speaking culture. It was really fulfilling to interact with local people and hear different backgrounds and views about life.
I really do feel like I personally grew a lot from this experience, and gained a valuable new perspective on the world and the meaning of life. In the future, I hope to always remember “pura vida” and try to implement this idea of a connection to the land and sustainable agriculture to practices and systems here in the United States. I will also remember that the meaning of life is not about a job, money, or possessions, but rather the experiences you have and the people you connect with.