Texas Tech students and staff will travel to Costa Rica where they will assist United Planet with local sea turtle conservation efforts.
Red Raiders with the Center for Active Learning and Undergraduate Engagement (CALUE) will head to Costa Rica on Monday (May 22) for the center's summer service break and first international trip. Seven students and two advisers will work with United Planet, focusing on sea turtle conservation and nest protection.
The group also will have opportunities to interact with locals and meet with prospective students of the university's Costa Rica campus, set to open in spring of 2018. The trip is part of CALUE's Service Breaks program, which differs from other study-abroad opportunities by including a service element in trips throughout the year.
"Sometimes on a study-abroad trip, you're studying and you're visiting places and learning, but you're not doing any actual service," said Jacy Proctor, CALUE Service Breaks unit coordinator. "We are going there to learn, work and serve; this will be our department's first international service break, so we're very excited to see how that goes, and we hope it gets a lot people thinking about doing this more and how it's important for students to go abroad."
Proctor said this also will be the first time many of the travelers have been outside the United States, giving them a chance to experience a different culture and new perspectives.
"That is one reason I was so interested in this trip initially," said Kennadee Bsuchanan, a sophomore agricultural communications major from Turkey, Texas. "I also was very intrigued by the thought of helping and saving sea turtles. I am always up for trying and learning new things."
The travelers spent the spring semester preparing for the trip, learning about the work they will do, life in Costa Rica and how to deal with culture shock. A representative from United Planet also attended one of the group meetings.
"She helped us better understand the area we are going to and what to expect," said Ahalee Cathey, a kinesiology graduate student from Cypress, Texas. "I also have done some reading on the culture and country as a whole so I can better understand Costa Rica."
This is Cathey's third trip with CALUE after serving during the program's inaugural trip in December 2014 to San Antonio with Habitat for Humanity and a spring service break trip in 2015 to Dallas where the group worked with Crossroads Community Service.
"Both were amazing experiences, but this one will differ in that we are not working directly for people," Cathey said. "I am excited for a different experience as we will be focused more on the environment."
This is the first time Buchanan has participated in a service break. She said she's looking forward to investing her time and effort into causes outside of her own needs, as well as the positive effect it will have on her and her future.
"The trips CALUE provides make their participants better citizens in teaching them to serve. It will become a great reminder for me throughout my life that I need to continue to volunteer to try to make a positive difference around me," Buchanan said. "I cannot express how excited I am to begin this journey and how blessed I am that Texas Tech provided me with this once-in-a-lifetime trip."
The travelers will arrive in San Jose on Monday and complete orientation the following day before transferring to their site location in Junquillal Beach on the northwest coast of the country. Four total days of service will allow the group to assist with night patrols, hatchery shifts, collection and relocation of eggs, beach cleanup and reforestation, and small projects, including construction of the hatcheries.
Cathey said trips like this give students an increased awareness of issues around them and help them better care for the planet and the people in it. By working on this project, she hopes to walk away with a better understanding of some of the issues facing the environment.
"Our goal as a group is to positively impact Costa Rica's environment, specifically the beaches and sea turtles. We know that whether we are picking up trash or on night patrol watching nests, all of it will benefit the turtles," Cathey said. "I hope we can just jump in and do whatever they need, however unglamorous a task it may be, because we are just focusing on serving and looking toward the end goal, even if we can't see how our exact job is related."
The day before the group departs will include a meet-and-greet event with Texas Tech University-Costa Rica staff and local prospective students. Proctor said she hopes the international trip will become an annual event with even more students involved each year.
"I know Texas Tech is trying to broaden our international scope," Proctor said. "Even if it was Costa Rica every year, I think it'd be great opportunity to partner with our new campus."
She said she wants students to participate in the trips, learn and then bring that knowledge back to Lubbock and Texas Tech.
"We don't have sea turtles in Lubbock, but I think that's a great example of how no matter what these service breaks focus on, it is essential to our learning and growing experience," Proctor said. "You're not only learning about sea turtles; on this trip, you're going to be learning about different cultures and lives and meetings tons of people.
"You can always relate that back to your home and where you're going next. I think it's important, especially for students who haven't been abroad before, to get out of your comfort zone and let all of these things make you a better active citizen."