This Wednesday we’re checking up with UGA faculty member Dr. Paula Mellom. Dr. Mellom has been running our Language and Culture Service-Learning (LCSL) summer program for 8 years! We know that after you read her answers to the questions she kindly answered for us, you’ll want to participate in the 9th year of LCSL. Don’t worry though – the deadline to apply for this amazing program is March 21st, so you have plenty of time to sign up! Without any further adieu, we are happy to introduce you to Dr. Mellom!
Describe one of your favorite experiences since you moved to Athens.
Oh so many – but perhaps it was working with a group of folks to “Save Legion Pool” last year when the administration was threatening to shut this landmark down. Taking our group picture in the water when we won was truly a cool moment!
What is your favorite thing about working at UGA?
My favorite thing about working at UGA is the people that I get to work with and the places I get to go. I feel extremely lucky to be able to work with top-notch researchers, teachers and administrators as well as all the amazing community partners and students (both in Georgia and in Costa Rica). I get to do work that I think makes a difference in the lives of real people and get paid for it! It really is the best gig in the house.
In one sentence, what makes an effective leader?
A leader is someone who is willing to listen and change his/her mind; who creates tasks for his/her team that play to their strengths, encouraging them to rise to their potential and surpass even their own expectations; who never expects his/her team to do anything that he/she is not willing to do, but respects and values the work of others; who understands and cultivates the idea that we are all better when we work together.
Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
Live intentionally and be alert for the miraculous – absolutely everyone you encounter has something to teach you, and every experience is an opportunity.
What are your favorite pastimes?
Hanging out with my family, walking my dogs, having long discussions with cool people, swimming, reading, singing, dancing, and yes, kick-boxing.
I went to Costa Rica for a year and stayed for 10 (coming back with a fantastic husband and daughter)!
What is your favorite movie and why?
“It’s a Wonderful Life”, no question – because it speaks to a deep-seated belief of mine that we are all connected and that each of us matters – even if we can’t always see how.
I feel like my life has not been a straight line, but a series of circuitous paths peppered with serendipitous “accidents”, leading me to exactly where I needed to be. I started out in college as a marine biology major but after several side-steps and chance opportunities (interning in DC at a Latin American foreign policy think tank, working for UC Davis’s Rape Prevention Program, managing an independent bookstore, teaching English at a bilingual school and starting my own business as a translator and English teacher), I decided that what I wanted to do next was to study how people learn languages. But at the end of the day, as my mother often says, I am and have always been, a teacher.
If you weren’t in this position, what would you be?
I would still probably be teaching something (maybe jewelry-making or how to really efficiently pack a suitcase!)
This week, we are showcasing some of our favorite videos made by our very own UGA CR folks. (There were many to choose from so don’t be surprised if you see a second edition of this post in the future.) And now, without further ado, here they are in no particular order…
1 - UGA Costa Rica: Carbon Offset Project, Dong Hyuk Kim (John Kim)*
2- Costa Rica Ecological Forecasting Fall 2013 – NASA DEVELOP
3 – I Love Cheppe (San Jose), William Walker Harris*
4 – Hairy Dawg in Paradise, Matt Evans & Clara Nibbelink*
*Edited by Spenser Simrill.
5 - Can’t Stop (Flying with Captain Bill), Collin McNew*
*I would also highly suggest reading Collin’s blog post that goes with this video!
As we begin preparing for our own Thanksgiving Day traditions in the United States, there is another Thanksgiving Day tradition that will be taking place on the UGA Costa Rica campus. The tradition began in the mid-1990′s when the owners of the Ecolodge San Luis would prepare a traditional Thanksgiving Day feast for the Costa Rican staff.
Although the tradition began well before the UGA Costa Rica campus was formally established, it is still carried on today by our on-site staff and even visiting students and faculty. Today, the feast is typically prepared by Lindsay Stallcup (our Academic Programs Manager), Resident Naturalists, Interns, and a few U.S.-born neighbors in the San Luis area. For the past 2 years, it’s also included the Coffee Technology students and professor Dr. Ron Pegg.
The feast includes traditional Thanksgiving favorites like turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. In 2003, the kitchen on campus did not have a gas or electric stove. Lindsay prepared the turkey in a wood burning stove for the feast. This also happened to be the very first time Lindsay had ever cooked a turkey. She recalls running to check on the turkey, basting it, adding and removing logs, all in between rounds of volleyball!
The Resident Naturalists and Interns often make their favorite traditional dishes to add to the spread. Some of these new Thanksgiving “customs” at UGA Costa Rica include deviled eggs and sweet tea. (We can thank the 2003 Fall Ecology program for the sweet tea!) Since the Coffee Technology program has been involved, they have been responsible for making pecan pies. Dr. Pegg actually brings the pecans from the U.S. to make the pies. The feast may also be one of the only dinners all year where rice and beans are not served!
The day is spent preparing food together before relaxing on the front porch in anticipation for the feast to be unveiled. For some, sharing this Thanksgiving Day tradition has become a way to reciprocate the kindness and hospitality that has been shown the them in Costa Rica. As Julie Bierwirth, a former Coffee Technology participant and current Teacher’s Assistant for the Coffee program, stated, “It’s a great mix of people and is a really sweet interpretation of what Thanksgiving really should be – people from many cultures coming together and getting to know each other over a shared magnificent meal.”
It is not a requirement to know Spanish to participate in a UGA Costa Rica program, but most students who have returned would say they wish they had known more Spanish. From one perspective, it’s exciting to learn how to communicate without using verbal communication. On the other hand, it is probably helpful to know how to order your lunch or at the very least, be able to exchange pleasantries with the locals you meet or families you live with. Bring a dictionary or guide book to help you learn some common phrases before you depart and to assist you while you’re in Costa Rica. You might also want to consider downloading iTranslate for the iPhone or Google Translate for your Android.
2) I wish…I knew that everyday resources are not as accessible in Costa Rica.
Although there are plenty of items provided for you on the UGA Costa Rica campus (we’ll get to the specifics in #3), students who have participated in previous programs noted that it was different not being able to just hop in their car and head to Target when they realized they needed something. Depending on the length of your program, make sure you have enough of personal hygiene products to at least make it through the first portion of your stay.
As far as resources available to stay in touch with friends and family back home, consider Viber, an app that allows you to send free texts and make free calls to other Viber users using WiFi.
You never know what mood Mother Nature will be in while you’re visiting Costa Rica. Previous students would advise you to bring a variety of clothing because the weather is always changing—hiking boots, some warm clothes (it gets chilly in the mountains), nice clothes, enough socks, poncho/rain jacket, shorts, water shoes or sandals, and clothes you can get dirty. And don’t forget your sunscreen and bug spray – it can be expensive to purchase once in Costa Rica!
We want you to be prepared, but we also want to help you avoid over-packing (you will be carrying your own luggage around). Consider this list of things you don’t need to pack or should avoid packing in excess:
- Excess Toiletries – You can get these (shampoo, soap, deodorant, feminine products, etc.) in-country but do plan on bringing enough to get you started.
- Hair Dryer – Let’s be honest…you’re going to be living in a rain forest…you don’t need it!
- Bedding, Pillows & Bath Towels – Provided for you while on campus!
- Rubber Boots – You can check these out on campus and if your size isn’t available, you can likely get them from a local store for less than $10.
As a good rule of thumb, set out everything you think you’ll need then pack half!
Bonus: Check out this Pinterest board for an at-a-glance look at more Study Abroad Info & Tips!
4) I wish…I had a better understanding of my money needs before I left.
There are a couple of different points to make here.
- First, students suggest bringing extra money for the items and souvenirs you will want to purchase to bring back to the U.S.
- Second, most places will accept U.S. dollars, Visa, and/or Mastercard so there is no need for Travelers Checks or to exchange your dollars for colones. ATMs are also available.
- Third, if you do plan on taking your credit card to Costa Rica, call your bank or credit card company to let them know you are traveling abroad and the dates, so they won’t put a hold on your account for unusual activity.
5) I wish…I had talked to someone about my program sooner, it was perfect!
With so many different program options, it’s important to talk with your academic advisor or Jessica Cooper, Assistant Director of UGA Costa Rica, to determine the best program fit for you. Consider what you hope to get out of your study abroad experience, the courses you need to complete to stay on track, and the length of the program. Once you determine the right program for you, you are sure to get the most out of your time in Costa Rica.
Bonus: Check out one student’s blog post for more helpful study abroad tips!
Today is Costa Rica’s National Teacher’s Day! In honor of National Teacher’s Day, we’re sharing some facts about Costa Rican education. Here we go…
Schooling is free in Costa Rica and every student is required by law to receive general education from ages 6 to 13.
In Costa Rica, instead of elementary, middle and high school, they have primary school from kindergarten to 6th grade and secondary school from 7th to 11th grade. Graduation from 6th grade is almost as big as graduating high school would be here!
Most students attend school until the 11th grade, unless they are at a technical high school, in which case they receive an additional year of schooling. At a technical high school students decide on a professional emphasis, like a major. Upon graduating, they get a certificate in that “major” (in subjects such as eco-tourism, hospitality, carpentry, agriculture, plumbing, welding etc.) that they can use to secure a job. The technical school degrees offered at each school depend on the job market in the area. In the Monteverde area, the technical high school offers two “majors”: eco-tourism and hospitality.
Uniforms are compulsory at all public schools and are worn by students at most private schools as well. Public school uniforms are generally a white or light blue button down shirt with navy pants or skirt. The private schools usually have colored shirts with the school’s insignia.
Have you thought about traveling to Costa Rica, but felt overwhelmed with lodging options? Let us help! The Ecolodge San Luis is located on the UGA Costa Rica campus in the beautiful Monteverde Cloud Forest. Allow yourself to truly take in the scenic beauty Costa Rica has to offer while only being a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of the Capital City, San Jose.
Staying at the Ecolodge provides a unique experience for all visitors, whether you are a parent visiting a student participating in one of our programs, a church, business, or scout group, or just on vacation with your favorite partner in crime. Your experience can be as educational or relaxing as you would like, with plenty of opportunities to see the area and immerse yourself in the local community. But one thing is for certain, you won’t want to miss the breathtaking views from your Cabina overlooking the Cloud Forest.
Click here to check out some incredible 360 Degree views from around the UGA Costa Rica Campus!
To make a reservation contact Beatriz Mata Cruz, Reservations & Logistics Manager, at 011-506-2645-7363 Ext. 112 or reservCR@uga.edu. Alternatively, you can fill out the on-line reservations form.