San Jose, Costa Rica HACU International Conference
I was selected by TRIO SSS and International Programs to participate in the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) conference. I was too excited to meet the girls who were going with me and to find out what's going on in Costa Rica. We arrived at San Jose Costa Rica airport and we took a taxi. I felt that I needed to protect the young girls that were with me and I decided to sit in the front with the driver. When we were close to the hotel the taxi driver asked us, “What kind the event are you guys going to attend?” and then he said, “Someone important is coming because there’s a lot of security!” I said to myself, "Maybe a lot of international students are coming." However, I was wrong: there were presidents of Latin America, including the Mexican president. The soldiers and guards wear uniforms of different colors and their dogs were also different. I was inundated with a lot of emotions because we were guests at the same hotel.
Our first day we took a tour of Universidad de Iberoamerica (UNIBE). I was surprised that the students speak English and Spanish. UNIBE has a large amount of American students in health sciences and an excellent medical program. Something that stuck in my mind was to see the wonderful comrades and student relationships. It seems that everyone enjoys school. UNIBE medical school has an intense training for hospital interns. One intern is dedicated to only ONE patient. I found it very interesting that Costa Rica doesn't have many major accidents, and most patients go to the hospital due to an illness. Another interesting fact is that 70% of the students go to study abroad and they love coming to the USA.
We also visited the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica: they offer Science and Technology programs. Both universities are officially recognized in different countries and both are very selective on their admissions. The students need to pass a test and then an interview with the faculty. Both schools are very serious and mentioned that they want only students who are committed to work hard and participate in activities, sports, and study abroad. Amazing that those three are mandatory for the students! They select students who do not want to stop learning and who are willing to leave their comfort zone. At this event I met Dr. Higgs, the CSUMB Vice President of Student Affairs.
The inauguration was incredible and very inspirational. This time I met the CSUMB President Dr. Ochoa. This is my second year at school and I finally met him in Costa Rica. During the dinner we were announced and we screamed very excited to hear our beloved school name: "CSUMB from California!!" and suddenly a young woman smiling and jumping told us that she is a CSUMB alumna. She works at the Embassy in Costa Rica. I was very touched to see someone with the same background – Hispanic and First Generation – enjoying life and success after graduation.
One thing that I brought with me is the importance of study abroad. I witnessed Costa Rican students’ interaction and collaboration, I felt that it is very easy for them to listen, guide, and provide positive feedback during their homework. Costa Rica faculty take it very seriously to send their students to have experiences and live in other communities because they return with a different personality.
In conclusion, I learned that I can help during my professional career to encourage students with disabilities to go for study abroad also. I met a woman from Washington D.C. and an international counselor from UC Berkeley and both told me that any arrangements start with the support of disability resources. I came home with many different points of view about solving things that before seemed impossible. It was a short trip with a huge amount of experiences and positive conversations with people from different countries. In my opinion, a student must continually grow professionally. Therefore, having the experience to talk with people with different cultures and backgrounds brings more empathy, sensitivity, and enthusiasm, and more likely inspiration for others to learn from me.