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Food & Agribusiness Institute
Immersion to Costa Rica and Nicaragua
From June 27th through July 8th, Dr. Gregory Baker, director of the Food and Agribusiness Institute, led Santa Clara University's immersion experience in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Dr. Baker, along with FAI Assistant Director Jessica Gagnon and FAI Alumnus and Lecturer Michael Harwood, accompanied 8 SCU business undergraduates and 1 student leader to Costa Rica and Nicaragua where they participated in a range of fun, educational, and truly immersive activities.
Zip lining, hikes to waterfalls, and city tours were among the lighthearted activities the students experienced. Of the many farms that were toured, some included sugarcane, cacao, banana, and cheese. They also visited Tierra y Agua, which is a community agriculture collaborative. These tours walked them through the process from start to finish of growing, harvesting, preparing, and distributing such crops. It also emphasized the economic impact agriculture has on these communities. Also on the itinerary were visits to two universities, Earth University in Costa Rica and INCAE University in Nicaragua. The students got to interact with local students from the area to gain a more personal perspective on issues of hunger and poverty in these communities. They also visited an elementary school and health clinic in the extremely impoverished Camilo Ortega region in Nicaragua where they planted gardens and plantain trees with the locals. Students stayed with host families a total of 5 nights, giving them an opportunity to feel closer to and more immersed in the community.
Check out photos from the trip on Flickr.
"Falling in love with the people of Costa Rica and Nicaragua has, indeed, transformed everything. I feel a renewed energy to apply to graduate school because by studying, teaching, and writing about literature, I give a voice to people, causes, and ideas."
"I will never forget the stories I heard, jokes I laughed to, or people I met during this unique service experience."
"In America we live our lives very individually, but in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the history, culture, and traditions are so integrated into the lives of each family, institution and community."
"Life is all about gaining perspective and I feel so blessed to have gained some in a different part of the world."
"During our volunteer day, we helped children from the local school to plant banana and plantain trees, cucumbers, carrots and other vegetables in their own backyards. It was an amazing feeling to know that in a few months, families will be able to eat the products of our labor."
"One of the greatest advantages of this trip in terms of learning was that we witnessed and experienced the vast differences between Costa Rica, the most developed country, and Nicaragua, the least developed country of the region. As much as this trip was to learn about agriculture, it was also to learn about development."
"Being able to have visited these countries made me more interested in getting to know more and possible revisit in the future when I can bring my education and the skills I learn to help people in need."
"Truthfully, I can say that I fell in love in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I fell in love with the people, the food, the culture, the nature, and the people that I was able to share this experience with."
"After our trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua I realized there are things more important in life. I now better appreciate that I am privileged and there are few things I should complain about. Family, close friends, and helping others bring joy. When we reach the end of our lives we can’t take any of our material wealth, but we will always carry our memories and emotions."
This immersion was tied to a course taught by Dr. Baker, BUSN 151: Food, Hunger, Poverty, Environment Immersion: Costa Rica and Nicaragua, which focused on the social justice behind the business of food production, consumption, hunger, and poverty in those countries.
Future immersions sponsored through FAI will be tied to the new FAI facilitated pathway, Food, Hunger, Poverty, and Environment. More information about the FHPE Pathway.