There are course evaluations, group photos, and a path that splits a thousand ways. Because at the start of the road there was just one, that road, but now we are at the end. And throughout this trip, I haven’t really talked about the people, mostly because it wasn’t essentially about the people. You don’t get to know a person until you spend a month with them, sometimes not even then. But at the end, we are out of the jungle and settled nicely into El Sesteo, where it all began, and we have a night to laugh and rejoice and reflect on this most incredible journey. And it becomes very much about the people.
Let me just say, I had fun. OTS did a great job of putting this course together because, hey, organizing the food, equipment, transportation, lodging, and everything else in between must take a lot of work. A lot could have gone wrong, but nothing did. This isn’t to say everything went flawlessly; a handful of things could have been better organized and there are those who are discontent with the work and the faculty. They can write it in their blog though, because… Yes, this was an intensive course, Yes, the coordinator(s) could have been more (Experienced? Consistent? Organized?), Yes, the mosquitoes were bad at Palo Verde, Yes to the 7 hour bus rides, the days in the rain… There are people who probably regret signing up for such a program, and others who might think they made the most of it. There are people I ‘disagree with’ and those I’m not afraid to call ‘friend.’ But respect and tolerance was consistent throughout the course and I couldn’t imagine this trip without any one of them.
Who is this blog for anyways? I haven’t a clue, and I’ve just been keeping this like a diary. I guess this is for Karl and Cathleen, who contacted me through OTS and set this up for me. Thank you. This is possibly for my Mom (Love ya!) whose expectation for me is this: Follow your dreams. And for whoever else at Duke, whoever is reading this… Man, come visit Costa Rica; it’s a wonderful place.
But perhaps this should mostly be for future OTS students. To them I have to say… If you love Biology, this is IT. It is hardcore. It is sweaty and muddy. In the last few days we had to do two papers, two presentations, two exams, and then any edits from previous papers. You might be frustrated and coffee might be your lifeline. But this (being out here) is the way to learn; to me it’s the only way to learn. If you come in expecting an easy grade, you will fail. And you will probably be overwhelmed trying for some pretty number on your paper. But if you come to learn, and you take every opportunity that’s thrown at you, knowing a good grade (should be) based on enthusiasm and effort, this will be one of the best choices in your life. My test grades and papers were not top notch at all, but throughout this course I’ve been confident about my ‘final grade,’ because it isn’t what matters to me. Does that make sense? Because in the end no ‘B’ or ‘A++++’ can even begin to measure me as a person and everything I’ve been through in the last month.
Come with a thirst for adventure, a helping hand for your peers, and respect towards your professors. Oh, and come with an open mind and a lot of flexibility for changes in the schedule. Have an appetite for rice and beans. Don’t be afraid of bullet ants (but be careful). Jump into streams, get muddy! Keep an eye out for snakes and an ear open for Howler Monkeys. Keep this mantra in your head: Pura Vida. Pura Vida. Pura Vida all the way!
PS I haven’t forgotten about my field notebook. It was great but not as interesting as pictures and videos : )
Thank you for reading, I hope this blog has done its job (which is inspiring you to get out there and EXPLORE!). If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
For those who care to know, my final grade for this course was: A.
Where I am headed now:
-10 more days in Costa Rica with my family, starting tomorrow
-14 day backpacking trip for Duke’s PWILD program for incoming freshmen
-Courses for the fall term: Primate Cognition, Marine Megafauna, Plants and Human Uses, Intro Biology, Globalization Women and Development, Yoga
-Spring term: Duke Marine Lab
-Junior year: OTS South Africa