Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

"Developing Understanding Through Studying Abroad" by Porter Reim

By Annie Gibson

I am handing over my blog on the CIAPA Experience to the students participating in the program. This way you all can have a better idea of what life is like for a student at CIAPA. This blog entry is written by Porter Reim. He is a freshman student who has begun his first semester of Tulane at CIAPA in Costa Rica 2012. Pura Vida, Professor Gibson

By Porter Reim

One of the primary reasons students choose to study abroad is to experience and learn about a different culture. While this is of course a wonderful reason, something Iâ’‘¬’“¢ve learned that is equally important is studying abroad teaches you how to experience a different culture. Even though the other students and I have only been in Costa Rica for six weeks, we have learned a great deal about Costa Rica, but more importantly, have learned a great deal about how to learn. Since our arrival, we have been working in two local schools with Fundación Acción Joven, an organization that encourages performance in school and emphasizes the importance of education. We first approached the students with some apprehension and unfamiliarity, but have since connected and learned how similar our two groups are. As we teach them English, they teach us all you need to connect is a positive attitude and something to talk about. Little is off limits in the connected world we live in, and many of the students have the same interests as us. Although we may fall out of contact with some of these students, we will continue to use the skills we learned, just as they will use the English they learned.

Recently, we traveled to Rara Avis, a lodge and research center stationed deep in the jungle for a weekend of experiencing nature. A group of German biology students who were conducting research came the same weekend, and we shared all of our meals with them. Although we could have stayed within ourselves, we used our opportunities to become friends with the Germans and learn more about them. Because we kept open minds and developed relationships with them, they shared with us the interesting animals and insects they found. On two different nights, they allowed us to examine up close rare bats that had been caught. Because we were open-minded, we received an opportunity few people will have. However, those werenâ’‘¬’“¢t the only new opportunities that I had. While swimming in a pool at the base of a waterfall, I decided to leap off a very high rock. Initially I did not want to and was very scared, but finally jumped anyways. I knew it was safe and I knew that people had done it before me, and would do it after me. All it took was that willingness on my part. I enjoyed the experience immensely, and climbed back up and jumped off two more times. I will never forget how much I didnâ’‘¬’“¢t want to jump, but I will also never forget how glad I am I did. It is often making that first metaphorical, or literal, jump that is the hardest, and studying abroad takes students out of their comfort zones to find how enjoyable the unfamiliar can be. Finally, besides teaching how to act when experiencing a culture, studying abroad also teaches how to act when others are experiencing your culture. Being a minority in a foreign country, I became aware of how foreigners must feel in my country. My idea of what is a custom or tradition widen greatly, and it became clear how much of day to day life is affected by one custom or another. Although I have only been in Costa Rica for six out of fourteen weeks, I have already learned innumerable lessons for engaging other cultures, and helping others engage my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Annie Gibson

    Administrative Assistant Professor - Department of Global Education

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