Friday, November 27, 2015

Full Circle by Willa Chen

            For the last few weeks of the program, we have been at Las Cruces Biological Field Station conducting the independent research projects we planned during our first stay at Las Cruces several weeks ago.  As my good friend Rachel put it, it has been exciting ending the semester by researching a topic that we have been thinking about since early on in the semester.  But more than that, these last few weeks have really tied up everything we’ve learned about and experienced in the program, including global health, ethnobiology, and Spanish language and culture. 
            For my group’s research project, we examined the factors affecting whether or not parents in the canton of Coto Brus communicated with their children about contraceptives, which had a direct link to global health and Spanish culture.  One of the most interesting experiences of the past few weeks was definitely conducting surveys for our project in San Vito, Coto Brus.  The surveys allowed me to not only practice my Spanish but also learn about Costa Rican culture through personal interaction rather than through the lens of a classroom setting.  Although initially it was stressful talking to so many strangers in one day, eventually San Vito became a second home – I knew where all the stores and streets were and even started recognizing regulars who passed by every day.  I am thankful for this experience, for it allowed me to take the Spanish and research methods I had learned in classes this semester and connect with a town in Costa Rica.  In addition, although I was not technically part of the other groups’ research projects, it was difficult not to be involved in their larvae hunting and plant collections, bringing my experience full circle back to ethnobiology, too.
            The past few weeks of research eventually culminated in a poster session, which I thought was a fantastic way to end the semester (see above for a picture of our poster).  Since most of the people who came to see our posters spoke mainly Spanish, we ended up presenting our work mostly in Spanish, despite preparing mostly in English.  To me, this was just another way of showing how far we had come since the beginning of the semester – our confidence with Spanish language and culture, our knowledge with global health and ethnobiology, and our growth as human beings. 

As our semester wraps up, I have reflected a lot on this experience as a whole.  Although there were many rough patches, I am thankful for the experiences I have had, the new cultures I have come across, and the people I have met.  Pura vida, Costa Rica.  ¡Hasta la próxima!

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