Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Study Abroad Blog

Pura Vida in Costa Rica


I chose to enroll in the Alternative Spring Break in Costa Rica experience because I wanted to have a chance to immerse myself in another culture and learn about community projects in a different part of the world. I am a social work major with an interest in community development - especially community gardens.



We started off our journey in San Jose and spent the night before leaving for Cahuita. The differences between Tyler and San Jose that struck me the most was that is was bustling - lots of motorbikes, traffic seemed hectic and always thrumming. We also noticed a lot of graffiti which some was pretty art while other pieces a bit more destructive. 

Most of the businesses were small and not huge shopping centers like Wal-Mart or Target. There were a lot of street vendors selling a variety of things. The restaurants all seemed to be open air and the "Pure Vida" motto is everywhere - and you can tell , especially after we left the city, that people seem to live by the motto. 


The town we spent most of the week in , Cahuita, is a  few hours away from San Jose by bus. The town is beautiful and our hotel was right on the water and very close to the Cahuita National Park. On our first official day in the town, we did a walking tour in the National Park where we saw a sloth, a few snakes, monkeys, and various lizards including a huge iguana. 




Since this program was service learning oriented, one of the main community service projects we participated in was volunteering at the local elementary school. We helped students practice their English, painted some of the classrooms/outdoor space, and assisted in the school's community garden. Our guide actually showed us where a previous group of students had planted edible trees a few years ago and that they are now large enough that they provide food for the Pre-K group of students. It really made me think about planting seeds and how things may take time but will have an impact for years to come. And I really loved all the edible plants found all over the campus since fighting food insecurity is one of my social work interests. The campus itself was fun and interactive, and I really liked the open air classrooms and beautiful artwork displayed on all the walls. 

For me, the service portion part of the trip was my favorite part. I really enjoy giving back and helping others. I feel like it is an important way to show the people around you that you care and are willing to work towards helping communities thrive. 



The trip really hit me on a lot of different levels - the experience of traveling internationally for the first time, what it's like to immerse myself in a different culture, and traveling with a group of people that I normally would have never met. I am thankful for the experience and for the acceptance I felt with everyone. One of the group activities we did together was a Caribbean cooking class. The dinner we cooked together was so much fun with everyone coming together to do their part in preparing our meal - we laughed and learned even more about each other! 


I am looking forward to taking another study abroad trip before graduating in the Spring of 2024!


This post was contributed by Brandi, a study abroad alumni from Spring 2023. Brandi is a social work major who went abroad as a part of the UT Tyler Alternative Spring Break Service Learning program in Costa Rica.