Kelsey Gordon with her students in Costa Rica.

Centre students gain new perspectives interning in Costa Rica

Posted by Centre News in Internships, News, Study Abroad 08 Sep 2016

Kelsey Gordon with her students in Costa Rica.Centre students often use their summer break as a time to do important work in fascinating places—including Costa Rica, where several students spent time doing everything from teaching English to rehabilitating wild animals.

Madison Debord ’18, a Danville native majoring in biology, interned over the summer in Costa Rica with the Jaguar Rescue Center and La Ceiba Nature Reserve on the country’s eastern coast.

“La Ceiba works in partner with the Jaguar Rescue Center, where almost all of the indigenous animals are reintroduced back into their natural habitat after being nursed back to health,” Debord explains.

Madison Debord with a raccoon in Costa Rica.

Madison Debord ’18 made friends with a raccoon during her Costa Rican internship.

The internship experience was fully immersive for Debord. She and six other volunteers—whom she also lived with—took care of an array of animals, including raccoons, monkeys, parrots, sloths and kinkajous.

“We made sure the animals were on an appropriate track to be able to care for themselves when they are released back into the rain forest,” Debord says. “The volunteers I lived with are from Holland, Barcelona, London and other places that are basically the exact opposite of my hometown. I learned so much about cultures, not just of Costa Rica but of other countries, too.”

To get to and from their worksite, Debord and her fellow volunteers hiked through the rain forest for hours—but she came to appreciate the seclusion Costa Rica offered, as well as the new perspectives it gave her on life.

“I was about four kilometers to the nearest restaurant or grocery store,” says Debord. “With this being said, I felt more relaxed than I have ever been. There’s not a worry in the world out there, and I loved the work. It was completely different than what I am used to at home, constantly being on the go or having something planned. Out there, there are no plans.”

Debord worked with animals at La Cieba Nature Reserve.

Debord worked with animals at La Cieba Nature Reserve.

Kelsey Gordon ’17 (above, with her students), an international studies major and education minor from Louisville, Ky., also spent the summer completing an internship in Costa Rica—albeit in a very different field. Gordon taught English as a second language to elementary school students at Escuela Leon Cortes Castro Primeria San Marcos in the town of San Marcos de Tarrazú, in Costa Rica’s San José Province.

Going into the internship, Gordon knew it would be challenging, but she embraced her new role as a teacher.

“I was a bit nervous. Although I had classroom experience, this would be the first time I would be leading a class entirely on my own. This in mind, I really made an effort to make my lessons as interactive as possible,” Gordon says. “Honestly, one of the most exciting moments for me was when a few of my students told me how fun they thought my class was. I was given a new sense of confidence in my abilities as a teacher.”

Living in a homestay while completing her internship gave Gordon a unique insight into Costa Rican culture, as did traveling to such places as a turtle conservation beach in Tortuguero and the National Park Manuel Antoñio.

“I was able to see beautiful places as well as interact with and learn from the people of the area,” Gordon says. “My entire internship and visit was an eye-opening experience to the ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle.”

Both Debord and Gordon are appreciative that the Centre Commitment—which guarantees students the opportunity to complete an internship or research project, as well as the chance to study abroad and to graduate in four years—allowed them to experience Costa Rica as they did this summer.

“I am truly grateful for all the experiences that Centre has guaranteed to its students,” Gordon says. “I have tried my best to take full advantage of all that Centre offers, including a CentreTerm trip abroad to Merida, Mexico, a semester abroad in London and now an internship abroad in Costa Rica—and I believe every student should do the same.

“Completing an internship abroad has not only given me further experience in my future field of work,” she continues, “it has also given me the chance to learn about and experience an entirely different culture. This new understanding, in my opinion, has taught me more about the world than I could ever learn in a classroom.”

“An internship like this is hard to come by,” agrees Debord. “Most people do not even know this place exists, but I am incredibly blessed to have come across an opportunity like this. If I had not gone to Centre, I would have no idea this place existed either, which I think helps bring a special uniqueness to my experience.”

A list of other Centre students who completed internships in Costa Rica over the summer can be found below.

• Amariah Ritchie ’18: intern at Frente La Ebais
• Erika Brewer ’18: intern at Jaguar Rescue Center
• Gentry Brown ’18: animal rehabilitation intern at Jaguar Rescue Center
• Rebekah Bruner ’18: intern at Health and the Environment at the Ministry of Health (EBAIS)
• Jacqueline Lopez ’18: Ministry of Health internship at EBAIS
• Abigail Patterson ’17: medical intern at Area de Salud los Santos
• Megan Sherwood ’17: medical intern at Area de Salud los Santos

by Elizabeth Trollinger
September 8, 2016