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4th Place

A Meeting

Megan Tcheng, Grinnell College

Costa Rica: Community Engagement in Public Health, Education, & the Environment, Fall 2017

"During our week-long journey in Nicaragua, we had the opportunity to explore some of the nooks and crannies of the city of Granada. With each step along the cobblestone colonial roads, I found myself falling more and more in love with the rich colors, historical narratives, and tiny hints of age that decorated the city.

This photo was grabbed during a fleeting visit to a local church that was currently in the midst of a large-scale renovation. The construction workers provided an interesting complement to the spiritual relics of the church, creating a striking contrast between the old and the new."

Q&A with Megan Tcheng, 4th Place Winner

Along with this church in Nicaragua, did you discover any other unique nooks and crannies during your time abroad? If so, tell us about one of your favorite discoveries.

During my three months in San Jose, I made an effort to go on afternoon jaunts into the city whenever I had a chunk of free time. The bus route from ACM’s campus to the center of San Jose is super easy (and the 60-cent bus fare is the perfect icing on the cake), so I collected my fair share of hidden secrets during my impromptu adventures. One of my favorite finds was an amazing ice cream stand a couple of blocks away from the Teatro Nacional. They made a traditional flavor of helado that’s a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and, in all honesty, it stands as one of the most delicious things my taste buds have ever had the privilege to meet…I still dream of it on a daily basis! 

Did you often take photos in Costa Rica? If so, how do you think taking photos impacted your program experience?

For me, photography was my form of journaling throughout my entire study abroad experience. I took my camera (or, when all else failed, my phone) with me almost everywhere I went and pulled it out whenever I felt drawn to a moment or an element of my surroundings. Whether I was documenting one of our weekend getaways, my walk home, or a lazy afternoon on ACM’s campus, I knew I was building important links to my time abroad that would keep me connected to Costa Rica long after I’d returned to my hometown or my college campus. 

What is one piece of advice you’d give to a student who’s thinking about going on the ACM Costa Rica program?

Living a new city in a new country, with an entirely new language and means of communication can be intimidating at times. With that being said, try to embrace the newness and unpredictability of your surroundings while also making the time to explore your new home on your own terms. Get to know Costa Rica beyond your daily walk to school or the view outside your bus window and find ways to connect to the people and places around you. Observe, listen, process, and, above all else, don’t be afraid to reach outside of your comfort zone. In all honestly, one of the biggest highlights of my study abroad experience was when I learned my Uber driver’s entire life story over the course of our 15-minute car ride. I never would have gotten to that point if I hadn’t been willing to take a risk and fumble through my Spanish vocabulary. If that isn’t proof of the surprises that are in store for your study abroad experience, I don’t know what is!

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