UGA Costa Rica Blog

¡Pura vida!

Fun Fact Friday: Fall Application Deadline is TODAY!

Are you interested in studying in Costa Rica this fall with UGACR? Well, you better get to work on your program application because TODAY is the deadline to apply! This fall, we are offering Tropical Biology (Semester)College of Environment & Design: Landscape Architecture (Semester), and Coffee: From Bean to Cup! (Thanksgiving Break). So weather you are interested in studying Costa Rica’s tropical environment, taking on an architectural design project, or tasting some of the best coffee Costa Rica has to offer – you must APPLY TODAY to enjoy the experience!

Tropical Biology

Researching with Fall Tropical Biology.

EVERY zipline

Ziplining with Fall CED.

Coffee Cupping with Coffee: From Bean to Cup!

Coffee Cupping with Coffee: From Bean to Cup!

Wednesday Spotlight: UGACR 2014 Program Shirt


The time has come for the great reveal! For those of you who have not yet seen our stylish new program shirt, it’s time to stop and bask in its beauty. Students participating in a UGA Costa Rica Maymester or Summer program will be the envy of all their peers, because they are the first to sport our new creation.

Let’s talk about design! This fetching garment is the epitome of comfort and flair. (Shout-out to Satisfactory for their excellent printing job!) The shirt is green to represent our passion for sustainability and eco-friendly practices. UGA Costa Rica is fully committed to creating a sustainable campus and limiting the carbon-footprint of our actions. All of our students participate in a Carbon Offset Project where they have the opportunity to plant trees to diminish the carbon released into the atmosphere as a result of their visit.

Our shirt also features an image of our unofficial mascot here at UGACR — the sloth! Although they get a bad reputation for being lazy, sloths are actually incredibly cool. Sloths are peaceful, caring, easy-going animals. They live life at their own pace, and always live in the moment. These mellow mammals also have the ability to turn their heads almost 270 degrees. This trait makes them very insightful and able to see issues from many different perspectives. As sloths spend the majority of their time hanging from trees, they can also teach us about leading a balanced life that quickly adapts to changing circumstances. And finally, since sloths are the masters of camouflage, they can show us how to harmonize with our environment and practice unification rather than separation.

As you can see, with this year’s UGACR shirt, you’re not only going to be gaining a new favorite article of clothing, you’re gaining a new way of life! If you’re a Maymester or Summer UGACR participant, and haven’t yet picked up your shirt, please make sure to stop by our offices at the Office of International Education (across from the UGA track) today!

Monday Top 5: Facts About Juan Santamaria Day

As Friday was a national holiday in Costa Rica, we thought we would give you a brief run-down of what to know about Juan Santamaria Day and the Battle of Rivas.

1) Some Background Info: April 11th, also known as Juan Santamaria Day, marks the Second Battle of Rivas, and is a mandatory paid holiday in Costa Rica. The Second battle of Rivas occured on April 11th, 1856, between the Costa Rican militia (under the command of General Mora) and the Nicaraguan forces of William Walker, an American filibuster who had declared himself president of Nicaragua that year. Walker’s plan was to conquer Central America and enslave the population. Costa Ricans fought back against the attempt, and the country’s only military hero was born.

2) Who is Juan Santamaria: Juan Santamaria was a poor drummer boy from the province of Alajuela  who volunteered for Costa Rica’s militia when the fighting broke out.

3) What Went Down: Legend has it that at the Second Battle of Rivas, Costa Rica’s commanding officer asked for a volunteer to burn down the hostel where Walker’s men were staying. Many soldiers tried and failed. So, Juan Santamaria volunteered. He was just a boy and the illegitimate son of a poor single mother. He volunteered under the singular condition that if he died, someone would look after his mother. Torch in hand, Santamaria advanced through enemy fire toward the hostel. Though he was mortally wounded, he succeeded in reaching the hostel and burning it down before his untimely death. This led to Costa Rica’s victory at the battle.

4) Aftermath: Whether or not you believe the story, Juan Santamaria is now a national legend. On April 11th all government buildings close, and citizens receive a day off with regular pay. Santamaria’s act of heroism (which confirms CR’s sovereignty) is commemorated on this day by parades, civic programs and fireworks. Additionally, anybody who has ever flown into San Jose knows that Costa Rica’s main airport is called Juan Santamaria International Airport. Statues of Juan Santamaria can be found at the airport, the park that shares his name in Alajuela and before the Congress in San Jose.

5) The Whole Point: Legend or not, the story of Juan Santamaria lives on in the hearts of Costa Rican’s and is a part of the national identity. They cherish the heroic memory of the young, lower class boy who sacrificed himself to save his country from slavery while thinking only of his mother. What matters most in the end is that Juan Santamaria represents courage, fidelity, and loyalty and devotion to one’s country and people.


Wednesday Spotlight: Dr. Kris Irwin, Adelante Award Winner

The UGA Costa Rica Adelante Award honors a UGA faculty or staff member who has made major contributions to the University of Georgia’s Campus in Costa Rica.  These contributions may have come in any of the following areas:

  • Study abroad program development and on-going instruction on study abroad programs with particular attention to student mentoring and service-learning;
  • Incorporation of international content from Costa Rica into the curriculum in his or her field;
  • Cevelopment of ongoing research initiatives based at UGA Costa Rica;
  • Significant contributions to develop the UGA Costa Rica Campus infrastructure;
  • Significant contributions toward ecological and social sustainability of the UGA Costa Rica Campus;
  • Public service and outreach in the San Luis / Monteverde community;
  • Leading international conferences and symposia based at the UGA Costa Rica Campus;
  • Significant contributions to the Latino community in and around the Athens community;
  • Commitment to fostering relationships, educational or otherwise, between the Athens and San Luis/Monteverde campuses and communities.

The Adelante Award is given annually by consensus decision among the UGA Costa Rica Athens Office Staff and the UGA Costa Rica Campus Staff in review of all nominations.  Preference is given to individuals with demonstrated accomplishments in two or more of these areas.

Dr. Quint Newcomer’s Comments:

Kris has been highly engaged with UGA Costa Rica since very early on, even before I arrived. His first trip to UGA CR was in September 2003. He brought a group of 15 students and in-service teachers down to Costa Rica in March 2006 as part of an IDEAS Grant: “Environmental Education in Costa Rica: A UGA Service-Learning Experience” in which they interacted with faculty from the National University and the National Biodiversity Institute. They planted trees and learned about environmental education and Kris found his home away from home in San Luis. He then received a Scholarship of Engagement Grant and came back to UGA Costa Rica in 2009 to support community outreach activities in aquaculture pond management and to begin work on a service-learning toolkit to support faculty teaching at UGA Costa Rica. Based on the work completed in 2009, he was selected as a Senior Service-Learning Scholar to continue to develop the UGA Costa Rica Service-Learning Toolkit, which he completed in 2010. He has since helped with training several faculty to engage in service-learning as part of their education abroad programs with UGA Costa Rica. In 2010, we co-presented about service-learning at UGA Costa Rica at the “People, Place, & Partners: Building and Sustaining Engagement in Critical Times” Gulf-South Summit.

Kris Irwin Fishing

Since 2006, Kris has helped me write and submit at least seven funding proposals, including representing UGA for the annual WK Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Award. Most recently, throughout 2013, Kris participated in the drafting of a white paper which led to the development of a large Coupled Natural and Human Systems grant we submitted to NSF. Our fingers remain crossed! In Fall 2011, Kris initiated contact with the US EPA International Office, and has helped foster an on-going dialog since that time with the team who serves as the advisors for the Central American region regarding high-level environmental policy planning and technical support. Together with Warnell colleague Jay Shelton, we have made four presentations to different EPA groups, at both Athens and Atlanta offices, regarding the work of UGA Costa Rica and possibilities of research collaborations with US EPA.

 In 2013, Kris and I launched a new spring break program, Tropical Reforestation, offering a hands-on service-learning field experience in support of the UGA Costa Rica carbon offset reforestation program. Enrollment more than doubled between 2013 to 2014. Kris supervised graduate student Micheal Heldreth in the development of a nursery management and tree monitoring protocol, which is helping us to standardize the management of the program and has been critical to help us begin to measure tree growth rates over time as well as gather other critical site data and develop detailed plotting and mapping for the 30,000 plus trees we have planted as part of this project.

Dr. Kris Irwin (center) with Dr. Jay Shelton (left) and Lucas Ramirez (right).

Dr. Kris Irwin (center) with Dr. Jay Shelton (left) and Lucas Ramirez (right).

 In addition to his engagement as an educator of students, as a researcher, and as a leader of community engagement and outreach, Kris has been a tireless champion of UGA Costa Rica, encouraging his colleagues to get involved, serving on the UGA Costa Rica Academic Advisory Board, and perhaps most importantly, he keeps me laughing when I most need a good dose of humor.

 I’ve told you many of the highlights of my work with Kris over the past 8 years. There’s equally as much I haven’t mentioned here. For his many, many contributions and steadfast support, the UGA Costa Rica Athens Office staff and Costa Rica Campus staff have unanimously selected Dr. Kris Irwin to receive the 2014 UGA Costa Rica Adelante Award.

Monday Top 5: Helpful Study Abroad Websites

So you’ve been accepted to Study Abroad with UGA Costa Rica…. Now what? We know that preparing to go abroad can be extremely stressful and full of things that you are unsure about. This week we decided to focus on helpful websites that can help you with all kinds of potential study abroad worries. With these sites in your browser, you’ll have nothing to stress about for your upcoming trip!

International Studies Abroad (ISA) Tips:

ISA is one of our top resources for study abroad help. Their excellent  “:60 on Study Abroad” is an in-house web series that features ISA staff members detailing quick tips on study abroad. They have advice on “How to Stay Fit Abroad” and “How to Be a Vegetarian Abroad,” even “How to Unplug But Stay Connected” (our intern, Aurora, used that last one in her first-place Young Dawgs presentation).Our top 2 are their packing list videos for him and her. Some of the advice about adapters doesn’t work for us, ( in CR you don’t need an adapter) but for the most part the info is really great!

 US Passports:

To fly to Costa Rica you will first need a passport! A passport take 4-6 weeks to process, so it is important to plan in advance to make sure that everything goes smoothly. The process of getting a passport is relatively easy if you know where to go. You can get started with this link to the US State Department! Want another way that’s close to home? At the Tate Center UGA has a Passport Office. Check out this handy checklist and then go on in to apply for your passport!

Orientation Handbook:

Did you know that UGA CR has an Orientation Handbook? The Handbook has a lot of useful general info, but a lot of people like it for the Packing Checklist. Within the handbook there are lots of stellar packing tips and suggestions to help figure out what you will need. Even our veteran faculty who travel every year get out the ol’ handbook when it’s time to pack.

UGA Travel Center:

If travel abroad is in your future plans, your best local medical resource is the Travel Clinic at the UGA’s Health Center. The clinic offers travel health information and appropriate vaccinations to students, faculty, staff and the general public. They also offer many tips and resources on how to maintain your health while abroad.

Accepted Student Info:

Once accepted, don’t forget to check out the accepted student page on our website! It has lots of useful checklists and links. It even has a video of the Large Group Orientation from  April 5, 2014 in case you missed it! So check in to see if your program has a specific power point or calendar and make sure to check the top of the page for important things to take care of before your trip.


Wednesday Spotlight: Irwin Bernstein, Faculty

This week we are bringing you the words of Dr. Irwin Bernstein! Dr. Bernstein is a faculty member on the highly successful Franklin Spring Semester program. Franklin Spring covers a variety of course including classes in biology, psychology and Spanish. And you have the opportunity to be in beautiful Costa Rica for a semester! We hope you enjoy his take on why he enjoys teaching in Costa Rica rather than a traditional classroom setting and keep this program in mind for next year!


Teaching classes at the Monteverde San Luis Costa Rica campus is a whole different kind of teaching experience.  Faculty and students do not meet for 50 minutes at a time three times a week, or on any class schedule, but you eat all of your meals together, travel around the country together and see each other every day and for most of the day.  There is no segregation of faculty and students and you all get to know each other as people and not just in the formal roles of students and teachers.  If someone is absent or having any problem everyone knows of it and everyone pitches in as a community to solve problems.  unnamedPerhaps you might think that having so little privacy and separate lives would be a bad thing, but we all quickly learned to work together and to share with one another as friends.  Friends know a lot about you, but friends also know when to give you your space.

Being interested in non human primates, being in Costa Rica gave us many opportunities to see them in their natural habitat.  We had capuchin monkeys coming to campus, and we could sees what attracted them, what other animals they competed with and how they responded to us and to other animals.  Traveling around the country gave us access to three other indigenous primates and we could see how they made a living in different habitats.  Primates are the Order that includes ourselves and so may be of special interest, but they exemplify the general principles of Animal Behavior and Ecology.  Seeing them in this light, the study of Primates is not a narrow interest but just a single example of much broader and fundamental interests and scientific principles.  Seeing the animals in their natural habitat makes the animals real and gives you a first hand field for what you can and cannot do in studying animals and what the problems are in such studies.


Monday Top 5: UGACR Virtual Classroom Videos

This week we’re bringing you our favorite Virtual Classroom videos! These were produced by the extra special 2013 cohort of Resident Naturalists, with the technical expertise of photojournalism intern Kristy Densmore. Each video covers a different topic in a few short minutes. They are fun, educational,and proof that we have the best Resident Naturalists ever! Want to see more? You can also search “UGA Costa Rica Virtual Classroom” on Youtube or visit our page.

In this short video Freelance Naturalist Alexa Stickel tackles the subject of Nocturnal Predation.

2013 Resident Naturalist Alex Wright does an excellent job giving a brief Introduction to Interdependent Relationships.

Resident Naturalist Katie Lutz gives us tons of fun facts about The Cecropia Tree.

Water Quality Intern Marley Connor presents a great run-down of Water Quality in the Bellbird Biological Corridor.

Finally, Katie brings it home with a super cool lesson on Bats!

Well that’s all for now. Make sure you check out our Youtube account for more Virtual Classroom videos and for the other fun videos we post!

Fun Fact Friday

We have a new arrival at UGA Costa Rica.  Our newest calf, with a beautiful black coat and white patch on his forehead, was born a week ago. His name is Tejón, which means badger. And don’t forget the word for calf, ternero.

Our new friend Tejón makes calf number four here. The cows on campus keep us in supply with fresh milk that we use for our baked goods, cream, and hot chocolate.


Tejón and Margarita


Wednesday Spotlight: Front Porch of the Student Union

Although we think that our entire campus is incredible, it cannot be denied that some of our most cherished memories are on the front porch of the Student Union. It is a great central location; perfectly situated between the kitchen, front desk and library. It’s the ideal place to get some work done, hang out with your friends, or just sit and watch the sunset. There are some great UGACR 360 Degree Photos on our website of the Student Union both in the day and at night. As we spotlight some of our favorite things, feel free to comment with your own personal memories!

Student Union Panorama

The porch was hectic before Thanksgiving dinner a couple of years ago as everybody mingled and enjoyed the holiday spirit.

A popular thing about our Student Union is the gorgeous view from the porch that overlooks a splendid sunset each and every night. Every sunset is unique and beautiful, and we just can’t help taking pictures. Below are some of our favorites!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The porch has great views during the day too!

The porch has great views during the day too!

Even local artist Jamie Calkin travelled down to Costa Rica to appreciate the beauty of the Student Union porch. We think he captured it perfectly, don’t you?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In short, the front porch of the Student Union is the best place on campus to relax, do work, enjoy your morning coffee or your afternoon snack. When asked what his favorite memory of the Student Union was, 2013 student Parker Lovelace replied that “group game night definitely takes the cake,” and assured us that he would return one day to defend his title of “Front Porch Jenga Champion of the World”.

The porch of the Student Union is our favorite, because it is a place where students from all groups can join staff and visiting tourists to spend time together and enjoy the wonders of UGACR. Day or night the porch is the place to be.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Let’s not forget that when you’re sitting on the UGACR porch drinking your coffee or watching the butterflies, that former President Laura Chinchilla once walked that same porch!


Monday Top 5: Spring Semester Experiences

Even though our UGA Spring Semester students have entered their last couple of weeks in Costa Rica, they have done and seen some amazing things in their time here. Today we have some of the most memorable experiences from the past few months. Take a look and remember, it’s never too early to think about spending your next spring semester here!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1) A forest full of inspiration. Our campus is surrounded by beautiful forest trails where strangler figs and beautiful bird calls inspire wonder. Can you think of a better location to take an ecology class? Whether taking a tour in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, or walking to breakfast in the morning, students have the chance to see real-life examples of terms such as biodiversity and adaptation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2) A welcoming community. Have you ever stayed in a Costa Rican home? As part of their cultural experience here, our students spend time in homestays with local families. They become part of the family for a week or more and might learn how to make empanadas or spend a Saturday swimming in the river. One student is working on a project to document the history of San Luis through interviews and digitizing old photographs. His project has taken him to old, wooden houses where whole families have been raised and through many stories of the past.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3) Visiting the indigenous Bribri tribe. This trip the students take in the spring captures the meaning of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not only is it a chance to learn about making chocolate and cacao beans, it opened their eyes to a people with a different belief system and way of life. You can learn more about this trip by reading this excellent account written by our Spanish instructor, Ana Ligia Lopez. (Photos courtesy of Ana Ligia Lopez and Professor Irwin Berstein.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4) Unforgettable adventuresWhitewater rafting is only one of many action adventures our students enjoy. They also had the chance to see the Poás volcano, whose crater lake has a pH of nearly zero! Not to mention ziplining through the cloud forest and rescuing baby turtles on the Osa Peninsula. (Photos courtesy of Irwin Berstein.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

5) Enjoying campus life. We all know about the beauty of the forests and mountains surrounding UGA Costa Rica. But the campus itself also provides a warm, friendly environment to study, relax, and build friendships. These memories of playing ping pong, eating ‘smores, or lining up for hot chocolate every night will not be easily forgotten.

Post Navigation


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 261 other followers

%d bloggers like this: