Concordia students experience new cultures in Costa Rica
Published 12:12 am Wednesday, June 18, 2014
BY MARY KATHRYN CARPENTER
NATCHEZ — A recent trip to Costa Rica was an opportunity that almost slipped through Maegen Kammerdeiner’s fingertips, but the Vidalia High School graduate is thrilled she did not miss out.
When the deadline came for Kammerdeiner to sign up to go with other Concordia Parish Spanish students to Costa Rica from May 24 to June 2, she missed her shot.
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Luckily for her, she got a second chance. When another student decided not to go, she was given the opportunity and took it.
“A personal motivator for me to go was just getting to travel,” Kammerdeiner said. “The whole time you didn’t know what to expect. It was interesting to see another place’s culture and how they lived.”
A goal of the trip was that the students would only speak Spanish while in Costa Rica. While it was difficult to do so at first, the students quickly adjusted to their new language.
“When we first got there, it was frustrating not being fluent in the language,” Kammerdeiner admitted. “By the end of the trip I was able to tell I had improved, because understanding and responding in Spanish was coming much easier. We were even ordering our Starbucks coffee in Spanish.”
While learning Spanish was a main goal of the trip, Ferriday High School Spanish teacher Jennifer Jeffers enjoyed watching the students grow as citizens of the world.
“I just really enjoyed getting to watch the students push their limits and be uncomfortable and face certain fears,” Jeffers said. “It really touched me to see the students push themselves. Seeing them work through things, rather it be hiking up a steep mountain or figuring out how to say something in Spanish, was very inspiring to me, as a teacher. I think they really grew in a lot of ways.”
The students saw most of Costa Rica during the trip. They changed locations every two days and visited rain forests, mountainous areas, beaches and volcanoes.
“The thing I appreciated about the design of the trip was that we got to see a lot of the country,” Jeffers said. “We drove the country from north to south and they got to see the biodiversity that exists there. My favorite part of the trip was just driving and looking out the window.”
The students had many “firsts” on their trip.
“Kayaking was a first for me,” said Desiree Conner, a rising Ferriday High senior. “It was fun, but scary. You look back at the beach and look at where you’re going and you realize you’re in the middle of the ocean and just hope the boat doesn’t tip over.”
Kammerdeiner tried surfing while she was at the beach.
“They taught us on shore how to get in position, but on the waves it’s a lot more difficult,” Kammerdeiner said laughing. “It was really difficult, but it was very fun.”
She also got used to having fresh juice with every meal, which is a custom in Costa Rica.
“Every meal they have fruit juice and that was weird to me at first because I usually have soda or sweet tea,” Kammerdeiner said. “Now, I just really miss strawberry juice.”
Carolyn Dixon, a rising senior at Ferriday High School, tried cacao fruit, which is a main ingredient in the production of chocolate.
“It didn’t taste like chocolate,” Dixon said. “It’s whitish and not really solid. It had a really weird texture.”
Kammerdeiner found the trip rewarding and would like to travel back to the country some day.
At the beginning of her senior year, she started a project on Costa Rica, not planning on actually traveling there.
“I feel like now I have fully completed the project,” Kammerdeiner said. “I learned about the culture and the customs, and then I went and experienced it.”
Jeffers hopes to make the trip an annual event as motivation for students across the parish to do well in their Spanish courses so they have an easier time transitioning to speaking Spanish on the trip.