Seven Stritch students spent their first days of summer vacation on
a service immersion trip to Costa Rica. They spent the week volunteering at the Cloud Forest School in Monteverde and experiencing Costa
Rican culture firsthand.
Jennifer Alig, associate director of international
education, accompanied the students on the trip.
She described the trip’s purpose as “service immersion,”
explaining that the two components of service and culture are equally important.
To experience the Costa Rican lifestyle, the students lived with host families, ate
authentic food, and took the bus daily to the Cloud Forest School.
“I think that Stritch is unique in this way,” said Alig. “We
want to provide our students with all of the cultural experiences of a trip
abroad, but we’re able to incorporate a service component into that, as well.”
During their time at the Cloud Forest School, the students
provided valuable aid by preparing the site for the rainy season, which
began in late spring.
They helped the school’s small staff maintain the grounds by
painting, digging ditches, clearing trails, and raking. If these tasks are
neglected, the trails can flood and become overrun with debris, making the school trails
In addition to the Cloud Forest School staff and students’ gratitude, the group
felt a sense of accomplishment knowing that they were helping their host
families, as well as many others.
Other highlights included zip lining at Selvatura, touring
a coffee farm, horseback riding, and relaxing in natural hot tubs made from
stones and river water. Perhaps one of the most poignant moments, however, came
on the group’s last night in Monteverde when the school hosted a goodbye party.
“This was a really great moment,” explained Alig. “The host families
and our students thanked each other in their own languages, and then we shared
dessert and had salsa lessons.”
Throughout the week, the students kept in touch with their
families back home through a group blog.
For most of the students, the trip marked their first time
outside of the United States, but it isn’t likely to be their last. In fact,
Elisa Vogt couldn’t wait to go back. Immediately upon the students’ return, she
started researching opportunities to spend the summer in Costa Rica and is back there now.
Alig said she saw firsthand how the trip changed these seven students. Their time at the school and coffee farm, in particular, sparked deep conversations about economics and environmental sustainability.
"It was an eye-opening experience," said Alig.
She is confident that the students will continue to seek ways to improve their surroundings, wherever they may be.