You can read articles, textbooks, and research. You can watch video clips or television programs, or see pictures posted in literature or through media. However, nothing can prepare you for just how breathtaking a personal experience through these natural environments really is.
On this Tropical Biology adventure, we explored through jungles, sandy beaches, open water, coral reefs, tight canals amongst the trees of the forest, research paths, the cloud forest, plantations, and even some of the city/residential areas. We got a taste of nearly every environment Costa Rica and Panama have to offer.
Here, in these areas, you will get it. You will lie in your bed at night, sweating and tired from the heat, only to feel nothing but wonder and excitement for the next day; and only to worry as to why more people aren’t concerned. You will witness and experience firsthand the liveliness of the jungle and the ocean, and see just how entangled the different webs of life are. You will also witness some of the trash-filled waterways of Panama in areas clustered by poverty-stricken homes or the acres of forest wiped out to provide land for beef cattle and banana plantations, and become aware of the devastation that human interaction sometimes brings to the natural environment. Then you will meet people like those studying at La Selva Biological Station, those volunteering at Tortuguero National Park, or people like Marco and Aurora who make it their mission to try to conserve their environment by getting others to love it as they do. You will meet these people, hear their stories, and know there is hope.
When you go through experiences, such as the ones on this trip, you form bonds between you and those you are traveling with. Through this trip, I connected with my professors on a more personal level, which allowed me to learn more from them about the nature of the trip, but also some really great life lessons. To this day, Becky and Jan are still a wealth of knowledge for me in any area concerning their expertise, but also when I badly needed advice in balancing school and life. You learn about the passions of those you travel with, and form quite the “class family.” Before I went on the trip, I knew only one person in the class. Over the course of the trip, I formed friendships that have lasted to present day. Some of my greatest friends now, are those who I took the trip with. We slept together, adventured together, got sick together, and best of all, HATED papaya together.
Taking this trip will leave you with an overwhelming amount of knowledge, compassion, and vigor. You will grow as an individual, as a student, and as a conservationist. On top of all of that, getting to experience the sights, sounds, and especially the food will leave you with a feeling of homesickness as you arrive back in the States. That’s the best way to describe this trip – a home away from home with an extended family you never knew you had.
Tropical Biology 2011