Ecotourism is a burgeoning business in many parts of the world, an open door to exploring an environment that is nearly in balance with its human cohabitants. Linking this exploration to higher education creates opportunities for combining research and instruction in these pristine environments. The UGA facility in San Luis, Costa Rica presents the university with opportunities to expand its already formidable study-abroad program in just this way.
Junior biological engineering major Erik Jarrett recently returned from the program in Costa Rica, where he spent the entire fall semester. For him, there was nearly as much self-discovery living in and around the rainforest as that which came from his work within the program's focus on ecological research.
Jarrett spent time living with a village family, took language courses and had a hands-on research regimen. He worked in groups with other UGA undergrads from ecology, anthropology, religion and political science, among other majors. "It was a very diverse group of people," Jarrett recalls, "and I can see the importance of being integrated into the larger campus."
Back in Athens, Erik Jarrett is still getting reacquainted with his life here after his semester in Costa Rica. He says the experience solidified his decision to enlist in the Peace Corps after graduation, and has added perspective to his engineering education and where he would like it to take him. "Coming back, I feel a little more connected with the world," he admits, and considering the variety of new awareness the time at San Luis brought to him, it is a connection that he expects will only grow stronger.