A pit stop lookout on the drive to Arenal volcano in Costa Rica. (Paige Frederick)
A pit stop lookout on the drive to Arenal volcano in Costa Rica.

Paige Frederick

Field trip outside of comfort zones

April 7, 2022

Taking a step out of the humid airport you are rushed onto a small tourist bus and hit the road to be faced with immediate traffic. Motorists squeeze by and you spot your first sign that you are far from home: an octagonal road sign saying “ALTO.”

A busy intersection outside the international airport in the capital city of San José, Costa Rica. (Paige Frederick)

NUHS students will have yet another opportunity to step outside of their comfort zones and immerse themselves in a new language and culture. Profe Gunderson and Profe Pekrul, both Spanish teachers at NUHS, plan a trip to Costa Rica for the summer of 2023.

For this unique Spanish Immersion trip, 12 or more students must be willing to step outside of their comfort zone and try a new lifestyle for a few days. “To be eligible for this trip you must be a NUHS student who has taken Spanish 1 and has taken or plans on taking Spanish 2,” said Gunderson. Graduating Seniors this year are also welcome to come back and join the group. 

This trip will be the second Spanish Immersion trip offered by NUHS. The first one was held by Gunderson in the summer of 2021. These trips will have many similarities along with differences.

The immersion trip of 2021 did not go quite as planned as Covid and the weather placed many restrictions and changes on the group’s itinerary. The group was unable to partake in a homestay, where students would be paired with a traditional Costa Rican family and stay with them for a few nights. Yet, they were still able to see many of the country’s beautiful landscapes, its history, and face the challenges of speaking a second language. Senior Marissa Todesco says “my favorite part of the trip was trying all the different food, it gave a very different insight into their culture.”

Hand-painted traditional Oxcart and an important symbol of Costa Rican history. (Paige Frederick)

However, the trip in 2023 looks to be very promising. They are planning to bring back the homestays, allowing students to be fully immersed in the language, culture, and cuisine. During the day when the host families go to work and continue their day-to-day tasks, the students will get the opportunity to do daily activities. These activities include trips to the market, coffee tasting, interactions with locals, and more.

An active volcano in the Arenal region of Costa Rica where the students partook in zip lining. (Paige Frederick)

The students will also spend a few nights in hotels and travel to different sections of Costa Rica. Students will be able to spend time on the beach, hiking in the jungle, zip lining on an active volcano, and relaxing in the hot springs.

Senior Natalie Hacker had planned on going on the trip but with the confusion and uncertainty of the trip due to Covid, she decided not to go. “When I saw all the pictures I really wish I would have gone,” said Hacker. Hacker also explained that “my friends that went said it was an amazing culture shock and I wish I would have been able to experience it myself.” 

This trip not only allows students to experience a new culture but to “experience something uncomfortably – to put yourself in those types of learning experiences are the most valuable learning experiences,” said Gunderson. “My favorite thing [on the last trip] was to see people’s reaction and seeing people going out of their comfort zone with speaking Spanish and trying new foods and things.”

Profe Gunderson and Profe Pekurl continue to work on the details of this trip. They are looking into different fundraisers and the price of the trip. There will also be a parent meeting in mid-April for anyone interested in more information.

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