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Service Abroad: Armstrong Travels to Costa Rica

(July 26, 2013) Armstrong has a deep commitment to service, and in May that commitment took six students and one recent graduate to Costa Rica.

“My trips are volunteer service and cultural based,” said Director of Orientation, Civic Engagement, and Student Union Chris Nowicki.

Nowicki led the students on the university’s second service trip through Armstrong’s Service Abroad Program. The program is a partnership between the Office of Orientation, Civic Engagement and Student Union and the Office of International Education. The program started in 2012 with its first trip to Belize, where students painted an elementary school for a week.

“Seeing what we consider to be a bad day here, is a good day to a lot of people in other countries,” said Nowicki.

The group departed from Savannah and arrived first in San Jose, Costa Rica, where they met with their guide and discussed the itinerary. They stayed the night in Belen, a town just outside San Jose, where they enjoyed fresh mangos from a tree at the hotel.

The next day, the group traveled to the Sarapiqui area, through Braulio Carrillo National Park and then made their way northeast toward the Caribbean lowlands area.

“There, we painted classrooms in a very small, rural school,” said Nowicki.

Armstrong’s study abroad trips offer a great mix of both volunteer work and edifying travel. On the third day of the trip, the team indulged in a chocolate tour at the Tirimbina Biological Reserve in Sarapiqui, then made their way to the Arenal Volcano area, where they worked for two days at the Don Juan Organic Farm assisting with new organic farming methods.

“Organic farms are really new in Costa Rica,” said Nowicki. “The farmers give a lot of the produce away to the less fortunate in the area.”

From farming, they then went on the majestic Cloud Forest Canopy Tour in Monte Verde on the pacific side of Costa Rica and while there participated in a trail maintenance service project at the Santa Elena Reserve.

After seven days of hard work, the trip culminated with relaxation on the beach at Manuel Antonio National Park before finally making their way back home.

“They came back with a cultural understanding of other places in the world,” said Nowicki.

While these service abroad trips are not taken for course credits, participants end up gaining credits in the school of life.

“When they go abroad, they become aware of what global issues are and can relate those issues here when they come home,” said Nowicki.

Aside from gaining a greater perspective of the world, the trips also enhance a student’s overall resume.

“International experiences will help students become more marketable after graduation,” added Nowicki.

Through Armstrong’s Service Abroad programs, students not only participate in service for others, but they also benefit from a service to themselves—a greater worldview and breadth of experience.