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Academics and adventure in Costa Rica

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Academics and adventure in Costa Rica

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July 28, 2008

Against the tranquil backdrop of Costa Rica's cloudforest, students from UGA and Universidad de Costa Rica recently shared their research, ideas, culture and experiences. Hiking, bird-watching and other activities designed to explore UGA's campus in San Luis de Monteverde and the surrounding region also were on the agenda.

The weeklong symposium was hosted in May by the Honors Program's Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities and UGA Costa Rica. This is the second year that UGA and UCR have partnered on an interdisciplinary study abroad research experience.

"The CURO International Research Symposium in Costa Rica combined key elements in an Honors education at the University of Georgia-research, study abroad and international civic engagement-into one exciting five-day experience for some of our top students who joined top students from Universidad de Costa Rica," said David S. Williams, director of the Honors Program.

Lee Ellen Carter, a recent UGA anthropology graduate, presented a project that explored how tourism practices impacted two indigenous communities in Ecuador. "The opportunity to present my project in Costa Rica was one that cannot be replicated," she said. "By participating in an international symposium, I was not only able to share my data with a small group of students from two distinct countries, but I was also able to learn about how my research is integrated into the overall picture through learning about the research of the other presenters."

The undergraduates also participated in focus groups facilitated by UGA ecology student Andrew Durso and recent political science and psychology graduate Aqsa Mahmud to address current water issues faced by both Georgia and Costa Rica residents. Experts from UGA and Costa Rica contributed to the dialogue.

The discussions revolved around the use of limited natural resources such as water and the best ways to conserve those resources for future generations. "I believe that we all should contribute our knowledge to look for more efficient and effective solutions," said UCR student Martín Calderón Chaves, who is pursuing a bachelor's degree and licensure in agricultural economics and agricultural environments. "For example, we can begin saving the water in our houses when we bathe or brush our teeth and to preserve the rivers and streams."

During the visit, the students planted trees that will offset carbon emissions related to their travel abroad and help establish long-term research sites as part of the Monteverde Biological Corridor project. They also completed a project that studied water quality.

"Having a service learning component integrates students with the community and makes the study abroad experience all the more meaningful," said Quint Newcomer, director of UGA Costa Rica. "Our programs in Costa Rica emphasize participatory education through which students begin to see their surroundings as a living classroom. We encourage them to reflect on their experiences and hopefully return to Athens and seek out opportunities to engage this community as well."