Recreational Sport Study Abroad group returns from Costa Rica

Students mountain biking at the base of Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica.

Elliott Pratt

The WKU Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport alongside the Intramural/Recreational Sports Department recently returned from a Study Abroad trip down to Costa Rica.

The group left for 12 days to study various aspects of outdoor recreation, “work with local community organizations, and participate in conservation and environmental studies” in Costa Rica according to WKU’s Study Abroad website.

Dr. Ron Ramsing said he began the trip with the notion that every student would better articulate their role to be change agents of all different sizes.

“Each student on the trip arrives with a different understanding and background of their roles as stewards of natural resources,” Ramsing said.

KaSandra Mitchell, a public relations major, said that diversity amongst the students and the Costa Rican locals taught her important values.

“We all came from different majors and ended up getting along very well,” Mitchell said. “This trip taught me valuable lessons in relating to people on a more personal level professionally. The Ticos showed remarkable hospitality and taught us how to properly care for each other as well as our natural environment and resources.”

Once the group arrived in Costa Rica, they stayed in a small community called La Fortuna – near the Arenal volcano – touring the area to study its natural resources.  Ramsing said the group then stayed a few days at the Tenorio National Park to stay with rangers in the rain forest at nearly 3,400 feet above sea level.

The group then continued their ascension to the cloud forests of Santa Elena at 5,600 feet in elevation. They ended their trip with a detailed tour of a coffee plantation in the San Jose area before returning to the United States.

Ramsing said his favorite thing about traveling with new students each year is their passion and willingness to learn.

“I have high expectations for the students in my course and I am always excited about the authentic interest in the course topics once we arrive in counry,” Ramsing said. “The students are sponges for information, understanding, and cultural enlightenment.”

Rachael Reinstedler just graduated with an Interdisciplinary Studies degree and experienced her first trip studying abroad with the recreational workshop. She plans attend nursing school, and said it was great to finally gain the experience of studying internationally.

“As a prospective nursing student, it is difficult to find time to study abroad while in school,” Reinstedler said. “I wish there were more opportunities to study abroad for me because I feel that the hands-on, first-hand experience of another culture integrated into my studies made the knowledge gained so much more beneficial.”

Reinstedler said studying abroad teaches you things that you just won’t learn in a classroom.

“We can learn about anything in a classroom, but the things we learn stay embedded in our minds so much longer when we can attach wonderful memories with them acquired during my study abroad experience,” Reinstedler said.

Ramsing said the group participated in service projects that were demanding in all spectrums.

“The service project is demanding,” Ramsing said. “Students rebuilt trails in the Tenorio National Park. They haul rock, pull sand from a river, gather stones from dry creek beds all so others will have an opportunity to reap the rewards of the National Park.”

Reinstedler said the trip taught the group about more than recreational events through a team setting.

“I truly learned countless skills and gained an enormous amount of knowledge from the experience studying abroad,” Reinstedler said. “I learned the value and importance of teamwork, the value of hard work, and the role that we play as citizens on the environment.

“The knowledge that I gained from studying abroad in Costa Rica will forever be a benefit with my future endeavors as a student, citizen, nurse, and all other roles that I play throughout my life.”

The values that Reinstedler learned during the trip are the same values that Ramsing says all students have learned in his time with leading study abroad groups to Costa Rica.

“The experience is physically, emotionally, and psychologically demanding – it is also extremely rewarding and thrilling. The students truly witness the fruits of their labor.”