Harbor City students visit orphanage and take in culture of Costa RicaFor a group of Harbor City International Students, a recent trip to Costa Rica was not just an educational experience or an opportunity to brush up on Spanish skills, but a chance to immerse themselves in a different culture.
By: Tom Olsen, Duluth Budgeteer News
For a group of Harbor City International Students, a recent trip to Costa Rica was not just an educational experience or an opportunity to brush up on Spanish skills, but a chance to immerse themselves in a different culture.
A group of 11 students, ranging from 10th to 12th grade, visited the capital city of San José during the week of Feb. 17-22. While in the Central American country, the students visited an orphanage, took part in an immersion language class and experienced the culture of a country far different than their own.
“The students went to a Spanish-language school in Costa Rica and took classes from 8 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon, so they had a longer school-day there during February break than they would have here,” teacher Carol Furchert said with a laugh. Furchert is a social studies and world history teacher and also chaperoned the trip.
The school organizes a trip for a group of older students once a year. Groups previously visited European locations such as Rome and the German and Austrian Alps. While those trips focused on history, the Costa Rican experience was a Spanish-language trip designed to give the students a look at another culture.
A highlight of the trip for many was the opportunity to visit an orphanage. The students held a shoe drive and delivered more than 30 pairs of shoes to the 17 orphans. Still, the students said they weren’t sure how the children would react to seeing a group of American teens.
“We loved playing at the orphanage,” said senior Cassia Bush. “I wish we could’ve taken one of them home with us. Any one of them would’ve been fun.”
While many of the students are studying Spanish, most are not very fluent. But they said the orphanage experience allowed them to converse fluently with the children, because all of the children there are under the age
of 12 and don’t have a wide vocabulary.
“They would just say things like ‘arriba!’ and you knew that meant they wanted to be lifted up,” said student Susannah Myers. “I’ve taken only two years of Spanish and could still carry on a conversation with them.”
“The language barrier wasn’t really an issue with them,” said her sister Mary Myers, who was also on the trip.
The students said they were also surprised to find out how nice the orphanage was. They said the children there were actually wearing nicer clothes than many on the street.
“They were better off in the orphanage than they were in the neighborhood,” Mary said.
While in the country, the students were also able to take a break from their classes and the orphanage for some recreational activities. They visited Mt. Arenal, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, zip-lined through the jungle and ate atop the mountains, from where they could see the whole city of San José lit up at night.
But the students said they were surprised at some of the everyday aspects of Costa Rica, from the abundance of artistic graffiti on buildings and heavy traffic on the steep hills to market bartering and customary foods.
“Every meal was beans and rice, even breakfast,” said Kaitlyn Scheibelhut, noting though that she loved the fresh fruit and coffee she was able to find.
Sarah Myers, sister to Susannah and Mary, had gone on Harbor City’s previous trips to Germany and Rome.
“Comparing Rome and Germany and Costa Rica, they’re all just unique in their own ways,” she said. “Rome and Germany were very comparable basically, but Costa Rica was really unique with its culture.”
The students held many fundraisers to help pay for the trip, holding car washes, a rummage sale and serving soups and salads before performances at the school in the style of a “dinner and a show.”
Furchert said students have been able to pay as much as 75 percent of their expenses through fundraising, making the trip possible for a lot of students who otherwise would not be able to go.
“We had a lot of fun fundraising all throughout this year and a little bit of last year,” Sarah said. “It’s a lot of fun because we get to serve the community while they’re helping us.”