Costa Rican Valleys–the First Few Days


Poas Volcano


Our 3-week trip started in the San Jose Valley, where more than half of the countries population lives. This is also where you can find one of the most visited places–Poas Volcano–that sits up on the edge of the valley. This is a very active volcano with a nearly constant cloud of steam rising from the crater, though it is often enshrouded in fog and can’t be seen. Believe it or not this picture was snapped in a few seconds when the fog drifted away, and then immediately returned. In this park we also got our first taste of “birding” since one of our program directors, Professor John Marzluff, studies birds.



Souvenir Museum

Souvenir Museum


In Sane Jose there was also this place called the Souvenir Museum. This store was unique in that it promotes sustainable tourism, which is a growing industry in Costa Rica. This three people started the project as college students looking for a way to preserve Costa Rican culture. They travel and work with people all over the country including indigenous people and purchase their projects to sell in the shop. The idea is to find ways to make the production of these items sustainable, creating less waste while showcasing traditional arts and crafts. Each item is hand made in Costa Rica by a Costa Rican, so there is no doubt that the gifts you buy here really do support the economy  and the people.



Coffee Tasting

Coffee Tasting


Terrazu was a unique region we visited. It is a valley with hills shooting up on every side, each of them cloaked in coffee fields. Coffee was once the main crop of Costa Rica, launching their economy forward with exports to Europe and North America. As it stands today, it is still one of the largest producers of coffee in the world. We visited a coffee Co-Op in Santa Maria where we learned the process of growing, picking, processing and roasting coffee. There was also a “quality control” test, where we went through several steps of seeing, smelling, and tasting some of the coffees to compare them with each other. This Co-Op also has two very eco-friendly coffees, one that is Rainforest Alliance Certified and another that has zero carbon emissions from start to finish!



After spending a few days in the valleys, we were surprised by the chill in the air. With the exception of San Jose in the heat of the day, the valleys were much cooler than we expected. We also saw our first rainstorm the day we visited Poas, where the streets become rivers and you are soaked to the bone in less than a minute. In Terrazu we did our first night hike as well. There wasn’t very much wildlife, but we did see many insects including our first tarantula! We hiked up one of the ridges surrounding Santa Maria, and the lights below were as stunning as the stars above us. Now it is time to head into the mountains…




The longest week of my life…

People travel from all over the world to Savegre, Costa Rica to see this bird–the beautiful Resplendent Quetzal

So next week I will FINALLY be leaving to study abroad. I have my itinerary but since I’m unfamiliar with where I will be I’ve been going over it closely and researching some of the places I will be studying. Since this is a traveling program, I won’t stay in the same place more than a few days. This allows us to venture all over the country and experience the extreme biodiversity Costa Rica is known for.

I’m almost done reading my second book about the environment, and have been conversing with the other 13 participants. It’s important to get to know your colleagues BEFORE you leave, since these are the people you will be living and learning with for the length of the program. Also, don’t be afraid to contact your program directors (if you have any)–they are just as excited to be going as you are! I got an email the other day that the t-shirts for study abroad ambassadors are in, but since I live so far from Bothell I won’t get to have it to take to COsta Rica with me. Bummer. But I will wear it with pride when I get back!

Here’s an idea of some things I will be doing:

  • Poas Volcano study
  • Dota Coffee tour
  • Hummingbird Study
  • Los Robles rainforest hike
  • Waterfall hike in Savegre
  • Restoration ecology study
  • Bird sanctuary study
  • Corcovado Monkey study
  • Coast Hike and people study
  • Mangrove tour
  • Zip line/tree climb study
  • Learning and having fun!

Wish me luck.



Tropical Plants of Costa Rica, The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica, and A Neotropical Companion: An introduction to the animals, plants, and ecosystems of the new world tropics.

Tropical Plants of Costa Rica, The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica, and A Neotropical Companion: An Introduction to the Animals, Plants, and Ecosystems of the New World Tropics.

Well, I’ve only got 48 days before I fly out to beautiful Costa Rica but I still have plenty of prep work that needs to be done! Studying abroad is a lot about the experience, but there is plenty of school that still goes with it. These are the three books for my exploration seminar to help me understand the environment and culture in Costa Rica. The book on the left is the only one I will be bringing with me to Costa Rica since it’s a plant identification guide, the other two I will finish before I depart.

Some fun things I have learned in my readings so far:

  • Acre for acre, the lowland rain forests in Costa Rica have the most diverse flora and fauna in the world
  • Costa Rica boasts a 93% literacy rate, and proudly have more teachers than soldiers
  • Ticos (the name given to natives of Costa Rica) practice flowery language laden with compliments so as not to sound rude
  • Despite extreme natural diversity, there are only 4 types of monkeys
  • Above all else Ticos cherish peace, freedom, family, and education
  • Costa Rica is only twice the size of Vermont but has 350,000 species of insects

I’ve got lots of reading to do still, but my other preparations are going rather smoothly. I am stocking up on some essentials like sunscreen, insect repellant, and lots of quick drying clothes for hiking. I now have a lovely backpack and pair of binoculars to bring with me, which are essential since we move around so much and do several animals studies. Plane tickets have been purchased (shout out to the UWB Study Abroad Scholarship for funding my travel expenses!), and excitement is building. I love seeing “Foreign Study 303” in my fall quarter schedule–it reminds me that this is all real!

As it gets closer I will give you a sneak peek at some of the activities we will be doing.


An Adventure in the Making: Costa Rica 2013

Blog by Maggie Yaddof, CUSP, Study Abroad–Costa Rica

Going into college, I knew I wanted to study abroad in relation to my pursuit of biology. As a freshman, I didn’t realize that I could study abroad so soon. When a friend told me she was looking at attending a spring quarter program as a freshman, I quickly started looking for something I could do. I decided on an early fall program at the beginning of my sophomore year, since I didn’t want to mess with my schedule too much. I soon came across the three week trip to Costa Rica to study it’s natural history, and was ecstatic.
I applied to several early fall programs, but had my heart set on Costa Rica—good thing I was accepted! The program is faculty led, and for the most part a travelling program. We will be in four different environments—the mountain, the valley, the rainforest, and the coast—to see how they all work together and support the rich diversity there. There are also Spanish lessons we will be having everyday, which surely will be helpful!
My one hesitation with studying abroad is finances. As a low-income student who lives primarily off scholarship and financial aid, I wasn’t sure how I would be able to afford an experience like this. I attended an information session about study abroad scholarships, and met with the Study Abroad section of the UWB career center to talk to them more about financing study abroad. I learned about several scholarships available, and found two that fit me really well. The GO! Scholarship is designed specifically for students with financial need and funded by the state, and UWB also has a scholarship for study abroad. I am blessed to have received both of them, as they will help me greatly in offsetting the cost of the trip.
Right now we are very much in the preparation stages, and the past two weeks I have had meetings for Costa Rica. We discuss logistics such as plane tickets, packing lists, required readings, how to keep a nature journal, and even learned some basics of wildlife observation and sketching.
This is going to be an experience of a lifetime and I can’t wait to get started. I fly out in about 3 months, and it really can’t come any faster.