Standing in front of Volcán Arenal in Costa Rica on a clear day and being able to see both active and dormant sides of the volcano was an experience I'll never forget. Studying abroad in Costa Rica has been one of the most amazing things I have had the chance to do in my lifetime. From the first glimpse of San José out of my plane window, I knew that this would be an incredible adventure. Whether it was hiking in Tenorio Volcano National Park to see the naturally neon blue Rio Celeste, or walking through Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve to see rare orchids, or planting mangrove trees as part of a reforestation effort (we planted over 60!), studying abroad has made me reconsider so much about how I live and has taught me so much more than I could hope to learn in a classroom.
While in class I might learn that fault lines, tectonic plates, and volcanoes can vastly impact the flora and fauna, this knowledge didn’t truly sink in until I visited different areas in Costa Rica. The climate, the vegetation, even the animals, were vastly different from town to town I didn't realize how different the active and dormant sides of the Arenal Volcano are until I stood before it and could see the split between the reforested half next to the muddy, steep side where the volcano still releases materials.
Being able to see toucans on the roadside, crocodiles swim past our boat in the wetlands, and sloths cling to trees in the cloud rainforest, really drove home all we had learned in class about Costa Rica's topography influencing endemic flora and fauna. When actually visiting a country as opposed to seeing it on a flat map, it becomes much easier to understand how a country that has only 0.03% of the Earth's surface can hold 4% of all of its species.
Being able to learn about Costa Rica’s environment in class and then directly experience what we had just learned, made so much more of an impression on me than having experienced only one or the other perspective. I know that only an Ohio State study abroad program could have been this incredible!