Costa Rica trip immerses students in culture

At 5:30 a.m on Oct. 2, 39 Spanish students and six chaperones boarded a plane to Costa Rica. Over the course of the next week, the group experienced the culture of what seemed like another world. They visited the capital city, San Jose; snorkeled off the coast; and zip-lined through the rainforest. Senior Jacob Mundle was one of the students who took the opportunity to go on this trip to the Central American country.

“When you’re there it’s kind of surreal,” said Mundle. “We walked out of our hotel and there was this huge volcano right there.”

The students did not have a crash-course for their trip like they have in the past, according to senior Sue Redican.

“You really can’t prepare for things like that,” Redican said. “You can study your Spanish and consider what you will need, but you can’t prepare for something so intense like that.”

Mrs. Ashley Wager and Mrs. Katie Lozano were the foreign language teachers who chaperoned the trip, along with their husbands and Mrs. Michelle Heskin and her husband. The group also had a tour guide and bus driver who were with them the entire trip.

“They were amazing,” Mrs. Wager said. “Everybody got really attached to them.”

During its trip, the group found itself in the midst of two natural disasters. One of the volcanoes the group hiked up actually erupted while they were watching it.

“It was a neat experience,” said junior Kyle Chumbley. “It was cool to see.”

Mere hours after they flew out of Costa Rica, a 5.9 earthquake hit 20 miles from San Jose, where they had landed when they first arrived.

“The earthquake happened while we were in the air,” said Mundle. “That was kind of cool.”

The group also spotted a whale on the snorkeling trip; learned to dance the salsa at El Sesteo in La Fortuna, the family-run hotel the group stayed at; and got up close and personal with the wildlife, such as monkeys, caimans and exotic birds. Students and teachers alike came back with embarrassing or funny stories to share with family and friends

“I got coral stuck in my foot and had to dig it out with a pocketknife,” said Mrs Wager.

Stories came from misunderstandings with the locals because some of the students were truly speaking Spanish for the first time.

“Cory Schmitt asked for a postcard instead of the check,” said Mundle.

Senior Justin Sanford made a mistake that was a little more embarrassing.

“Justin Sanford asked a lady how much she cost, instead of how much something cost,” Mrs. Wager said.

Students that went on the trip were surprised by the culture shock of visiting the Spanish-speaking country.

“I didn’t expect the people to be so nice,” senior David Lanza said. “When I went to Spain the people weren’t necessarily mean, but in Costa Rica, everyone wants to help you.”

The students’ use of the Spanish they learned also had an impact on their views of the language.

“I was really surprised by how much Spanish I knew,” Redican said. “As soon as someone asks you a question, you sit there for a second like, ‘Whoa, what did they just say?’ Then you answer them and you sound like a champ and it’s no big deal.”

Redican was also given some direction toward a future career as a result of the trip.

“It’s made me realize that I really want to do something with languages in my life,” said Redican.