Q&A Spotlight: Katie Brennan

Name: Katie Brennan
Major: Elementary Education
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Destination: Costa Rica
Institution: Environmental Education and Service Learning in the Tropics

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Q: FOOD, your favorite subject & ours. Best dish? Worst dish? New recipe you picked up?

A: The food was surprisingly very plain. I was expecting spicy Mexican type food, but it was actually very different from that. There was chicken, plain rice, and beans for almost every meal. My favorite thing to eat was the fresh fruit. Every morning, the breakfast bar was full of pineapple, papaya, watermelon, and bananas. I also tried guava and cashew juice! These were definitely not my favorite things, but it was fun to be able to try them. One day, we took a cooking class where we learned how to make empanadas and fried plantains!

Q: PLACES, talk about your favorite spot in your home away from home. Where? Why?

A: During our two weeks in Costa Rica, we visited many different cities. My absolute favorite was the Sarapiquí region. Here, we stayed at the Selva Verde Lodge which was right in the middle of the rainforest. Each morning I would wake up and hear Howler Monkeys outside of my window. While we were in Sarapiquí, we were able to visit a local school and spend time with the kids there. This was an awesome experience. As an elementary education major, it was amazing to see the difference between the school in Costa Rica and schools in the United States. I thought that it was interesting that the students all prayed together before eating lunch and brushed their teeth before returning to class. At recess, the students played soccer together outside of the school. It was nice to see that a lack of resources and money did not stop the children from getting an education. It was obvious that the teachers really cared for the students and the students were excited to have the opportunity to learn.

Q: SPEAKING OF, what new vocabulary have you added to your repertoire after study abroad?

A: Pura Vida! This is the unofficial slogan of Costa Rica. Literally, it means pure life, but it is used as an expression that means full of life or good life. It is a common greeting and is often said when people are happy about something.

Q: WEEKENDS, full of travel. Where did you go? How did you choose? Was it difficult to plan?

A: We only had one free day to explore since the trip was only two weeks long. We were able to choose between horse-back riding and zipling. I decided to go ziplining because it sounded exciting. Ironically, I am terrified of heights! However, my fear is what pushed me to try it. Before I left for the trip, I decided that I would take this experience as an opportunity to try new things and face my fears. Zipling was certainly a way to do this! For the first few lines, I was so scared. I remember my hands and legs shaking as I waited for my turn on the platform. To make things worse, I got stuck on my first ride. I had to turn around and pull myself back to the platform. Although I started off on the wrong foot, I was having a blast by the time I finished. I was proud of myself for trying something new and going out of my comfort zone!

Q: PARTING WORDS. What would you say to students worried / concerned / afraid of studying abroad?

A: I was extremely nervous about studying abroad. I had never been out of the country and did not know what to expect. I also grew up twenty minutes away from Towson, so I had never really been far away from my family and friends. I did not know anyone who was going on the trip and was afraid that I would be lonely and homesick. While the first day took some adjusting, I quickly became close to my classmates. I was with them all day everyday so it was pretty much impossible to not make friends. I was able to experience a life that was so different from what I was used to in Maryland which really expanded my view of the world. I cannot put into words how grateful I am for having the opportunity to study abroad. Doing so pushed me outside of my comfort zone and made me face my fears. Even though studying abroad can be unnerving at first, it is definitely worth it! I am so glad that I did not let my fears keep me from having the time of my life!