By Cassia Caruth
Cassia Caruth '20 is a linguistics major with a Spanish minor. On the Duke in Costa Rica summer program, she discovered new interests in the global health field, leading her to later pursue a spring semester study away program with a global health focus.
Taking this course in Costa Rica provided me with a great deal of opportunities. I was fully immersed in the Costa Rican culture and way of life. As we were studying their healthcare system, direct contact with the people from its different facets was extremely valuable. During our morning classes, we were able to discuss pertinent features of the system, and in the afternoons we spoke to professionals in the field regarding the same topics. This experiential learning allowed for increased engagement and bridged the gap between theory and practice. Speaking Spanish 95% of the time was a benefit of being on this program, as we were able to further our proficiency.
One thing that I had hoped to achieve on this program was a cross-cultural analysis between Costa Rica and my country, Trinidad and Tobago. I was thrilled when I found similarities between the two countries in terms of climate, food, music and language, especially in the region of Limón which is along the Caribbean coast.
Mi familia tica was great, and treated me as a member of their family. My host dad made me laugh until my cheeks hurt at dinner every night. He is funny, charming and extremely talkative – he was responsible for 85% of our nightly three-hour dinners. Every time I returned home from weekend trip away, they would sing and play instruments to welcome me back. They are a genuine and loving family and anyone would be lucky to be placed with them – I know I was.
I was thrilled by the number of co-curricular activities we did. We visited many of the places that we learned about in class, such as a weekend trip to an indigenous community and la Isla San Lucas, but we also went to a volcano, a tour of a coffee plantation, a football game, and much more.
My participation in this program makes me want to explore the global health field more. I will be taking another global health course in the Fall, and I will be doing a global health study abroad program in the Spring.
My advice for students considering this program is “do it!” Be prepared to fall in love with the saying, or rather way of life, “pura vida” and be fully present in the country and your host family. The realizations that you will make about yourself and your worldview are valuable, and I guarantee you that you will have a wonderful experience.
Linguistics, Class of 2020
Duke in Costa Rica