Zip lining through the rainforest, climbing 5,500 feet up the side of the mountain into the clouds, riding horses at sunset and driving all-terrain vehicles in Monteverde — 18 students and three professors enjoyed a unique learning experience.
Dean of the College of Business Dr. Jim King, Assistant Professor of Economics Danny Taylor and Assistant Dean of Student Learning and Student Success Dr. Tammi Cooper took a group of Crusaders to Costa Rica over spring break for a global business class.
“It was a cool way of studying culture because you saw it firsthand rather than in a book,” junior business management major Andrea Olson said. “I feel like I learned way more than I could (have) in a classroom. You remember things a lot better when you experience yourself rather than memorizing facts. It was a good life experience.”
The group spent time in three different cities — San Jose, the capital; Puerto
Viejo, on the beach; and Monteverde, in the mountains and jungle. This helped students better understand the different lifestyles of Costa Rica and how they affect people’s behavior.
“Embracing other cultures is critical,” King said. “From a business person’s
perspective, it not only helps you become a better person, but also a better business person. Culture impacts business wherever you go.”
Students spent time in markets, restaurants and other establishments speaking with owners and interacting with locals, also known as Ticos. They went to coffee plantations and cheese factories to see how the country’s goods went from raw materials to finished products.
Olson said the people were laid back and responsive to questions.
“They were very friendly and willing to go out of their way to help you. They are very conversational and cared about us a lot.”
She remembers one Costa Rican woman in particular, the manager of a hotel in Monteverde.
“She lined up reservations for us and made our stay comfortable. When we left, she wanted to keep in contact with us and e-mailed Dr. King to make sure we got to our next location safely and were having a good time. Nidia was a big part of our trip,” Olson said.
The group also visited Funda Vida, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to “bring life-giving hope to children and youth trapped in the destructive cycle of poverty,” according to the Web site.
Funda Vida was founded by Director Chris Dearnley, who was raised in the United States but felt called to work with the Costa Rican people.
“A number of students’ eyes were opened,” King said. “Meeting other Americans who are around the world living out their faith in the midst of different cultures is important. It allows students to see what it looks like to be using what God has gifted you to spread the Gospel anywhere you are.”
He believes study-abroad experiences have more than an educational impact, which is why he has been taking students on trips since 2001, when the first group studied in Morocco.
“The platform I’ve been given is working with students,” King said. “I really (feel) called to be more involved in… using my skill set to find a way to help spread the concept of the Great Commission.
“By introducing students to the world, students see the concept of the Great Commission in practice and that… allows them to see people really living out their faith in other countries.”
The dean’s eventual goal is for every student across campus to have the opportunity to get involved in study-abroad programs whether short or long term. He hopes to make trips fit the credit needs of every major.
“We want students to get their hands dirty in their chosen field while experiencing another culture,” King said. “That gets deeper into using one’s professional calling along with one’s faith-based calling so that you have this seamless integration so that there is virtually no difference.”
King said the trips are affordable because UMHB uses a large portion of class
tuition to pay for the costs.
“Most people don’t comprehend how much the university supports study abroad,” he said. “The university has made a commitment that almost no other institution … has made and that is very unheard of for small institutions to do, but (UMHB) uses class costs to cover most of the trip.”
He encourages all students and faculty to go on educational travels outside the United States.
King said, “Short-term is better than nothing, and the university makes it way too easy for people to go.”
Besides engaging in a different culture, students on the trip built close relationships, something they brought back to campus.
“One of the things that was really good about this group, that you don’t see in every trip, was that there were a number of people that didn’t know each other before who got close and still talk now that we’re back. That was a very impacting factor on this trip,” King said.
Whether riding in a bus for four hours, eating traditional Costa Rican food at a restaurant or walking around the streets of San José, observing the people
and their culture, senior business management major Elaine Dalby said the trip was a great experience.
“It was very concentrated on team bonding. We got to know each other better because we saw each other in such a different light,” Dalby said.
It was also educational.
She said, “The whole trip was eye-opening because we got to see culture in a different part of the world and learn from the people on our team and the people there.”