Study Abroad Office launches new “alternative spring break” program

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By Rana Moustafa, The Daily Iowan

Some University of Iowa students will delve into the Costa Rican forests during a time other college students choose to party or relax.

The UI Office of Study Abroad will allow students to spend this spring break studying environmental sustainability in and around the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica.

UI civil and environmental engineering Assistant Professor Craig Just said the trip is meant to spur students to be more sustainable in their daily lives after exploring an environment that’s largely been untouched by industrial growth.

“You can see the impacts on species, plants, and animals,” said Just, who will also lead the program in March. “There aren’t many humans in that particular part.”

The program will provide students with a learning opportunity during a time other students often spend on non-academic vacations, he said.

“It’s important that the project they do has a lasting impact rather than a short spring break spent in Miami,” he said.

This will be the first UI international program to occur solely over the week of spring break, said John Rogers, an assistant director of the Study Abroad Office. He said the “alternative spring break” program will cater to an increasing interest from students to study abroad.

“We continue to grow, somewhat more slowly because of the economy,” he said.

According to a 2009-10 Study Abroad report, 1,365 UI students studied abroad, up from 1,283 students in the previous year.

Rogers said that so far, six students have applied to the program, though he expects the number to rise before the Wednesday deadline.

The program, which costs $765 plus around $500 for airfare, will be based in the University of Georgia’s campus near Monteverde, Costa Rica. Students will learn about societal, economic, and environmental interactions by visiting with local families and sustainable farmers and touring reserves.

UI sophomore Sydney Johnson said she plans to use the program to work toward her sustainability certificate.

“I’m mostly excited to go to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and also go waterfall and night hiking,” said the international-studies major with an emphasis on global resources and the environment. “I’m also really excited about looking at the endemic animal and plant species in Costa Rica.”

Rogers said he hopes more students are encouraged to travel the world and appreciate different cultures and traditions while learning at the same time.

“Our hope for study-abroad students, no matter where they go, is that they learn about the country they travel to,” he said.

But not all students are interested in academics during their week off.

“I feel like spring break is supposed to be a week to step away from the learning environment for and just relax” said UI junior Logan West.

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