For three weeks this summer, a group of Davenport University students studied abroad in Costa Rica — both San Jose, the capital city, and on the Pacific Coast near sandy beaches and the rainforest.
Throughout the experience, they took specialized Spanish language immersion courses with certified instructors and experienced the local culture by living with host families.
“Watching students ‘wake up to the world’ is one of the most rewarding experiences an educator can have,” said Suzanne Gut, DU faculty member and study abroad program director. “Studying abroad allows students to test their boundaries and learn more about themselves. It is an extraordinary experience that lets you see DU’s mission in action.”
During the study abroad, the students also completed service learning projects and toured local businesses.
“Studying and serving abroad is an unbelievable experience. I’ve learned so much about myself and other people in such a short time,” said Zoey Hoffman, Management student from Elizabethville, Pennsylvania. “The biggest thing that has impacted me was our service learning at a daycare for underprivileged kids who have it very rough in life. I was able to form bonds with some of the kids in only a few days and leaving them was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in a while.”
Audrey Horrocks, a Nursing student from Lansing, Michigan, said studying abroad was enlightening.
“This trip has impacted me in many ways but mostly by living with someone from a different culture and neither of us speaking the same language,” Horrocks said. “We would have to use a lot of body language to understand what we were saying to each other, but communication gets easier.”
“This trip has taught me that there are undiscovered friends and family all around the world. We may not speak the same language; however, it is the language of the heart that matters most.”
“I’ve been able to live out my need for adventure.”
“This trip has taught me a lot about another culture which I never would have had the chance to experience. Costa Rica has so much to offer and getting the change to explore it is life changing.”
“This trip has shown me that what seems impossible is definitely possible. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to have had this experience and create new friendships along the way.”
Davenport provides students with multiple opportunities to study abroad in countries such as China, Kenya, Ireland, England, France and Spain.
Gabriela Ziegler, department chair in Computer Information Systems, has led the Costa Rica study abroad since 2011.
“The most rewarding experience that I have had without fail is the personal and professional growth that students experience,” Ziegler said. “They come home to their routine and feel confident that they can always succeed when going out of their comfort zones because they already did it!”