BLOG TAKEOVER BY CCM STUDENTS! - Reflection Collection -

Authored by:
Chris Jeney

Chris Jeney

The following is a collection of photos and responses to specific questions posed to each student within the Climate Change Mitigation Program for Session 1, Summer 2022 in Monteverde, Costa Rica. 


"The Guac Squad" From left to right: Blue, Heidi (above), Ava, Heather, Dulce, Stuti (below).


Consider the people you met along your journey. What did you take away from them?

Blue: I took away a lot from all the people I met over the course of this trip. I took away a passion and fascination for the environment and the world's natural wonders, an excitement for fun whenever possible, a kindness towards everyone and the value of community. My peers, teachers, program leaders, the staff, and the locals taught me so much.

Will you stay in touch with people?

Heidi: I’m gonna try as hard as I can to keep in touch with the friends I’ve made. I’m so grateful to have gone through this new experience with amazing people I met less than 3 weeks ago. They already mean so much to me, and I know that I’ll remember them forever. Though, keeping in touch is hard, especially living 20 hours from some of them. Staying in touch is a 2-way relationship, so while I’ll do what I can to keep talking with them, who knows if they’ll do the same. Either way, I couldn’t have asked for better people to spend these 3 weeks with!

Describe your favorite day.

Ava: I had a lot of favorite days but one of them was when we went to the el Tigre waterfalls. The waterfalls were absolutely amazing and it definitely lived up to my expectations and more. The hike was beautiful and the swimming was really fun, especially with friends. The last leg of the trip was just the cherry on top though. I say this because we got to ride horses up the mountain back to the main cafe. I’ve always loved riding horses and the views that came along with it were spectacular. And the gift shop was very nice as well. The whole experience was just everything I had been looking for and I know I have gained many long lasting memories from it.

What kind of free activities did you find?

Heather: On campus during free time, there were an assortment of ball games we played, including volleyball, basketball, four square, and my personal favorite, soccer. Inside, we played many card games like Speed, Mafia, and One Night Werewolf and computer games hosted by JackboxTV. Some nights, we spent our energy either doing Just Dance or learning dances that each of our peers knew. These activities and the bonding that became of them made down-time one of the highlights of the program.

What was the food like?

Dulce: The food was bussin’, bussin’ because it is homemade and very fresh and very delicíoso!

What advice do you have for immersing yourself in a new language?

Stuti: For immersing myself into a new language, I think the best thing you can do is listen and try talking to the locals/staff. Whenever we would have a presenter or staff member give us information in Spanish, I would try to translate as much as I can on my own and then use Caro's translation to help me understand the parts I missed. It's also helpful to try talking with your peers and friends in Spanish because we are all learning, and it's a learning opportunity for all.


From Left to Right: Dutch, Natalie, Alana (CCM Program Leader), Cianna, AJ, Irena, Autumn, Ahnsa.



Did you find any cool places that you weren’t expecting?

Dutch: Yes I did. Throughout the program we visited countless amazing places however many of the rainforest scenes were similar to what you could find on google images. The cool places I did not expect were very surreal though, especially when we were literally enveloped in clouds and looking at beautiful sunsets from the rocking chairs outside of the dining hall.

How did you get involved in the community?

Natalie: I got involved in the community by making friends with the people I felt connected to, as well as putting myself out there to everyone I interacted with overall. Whenever we were given a chance to socialize- class, in our bungalows, during meals- I decided to put any second thoughts behind me and begin conversations with people around me. I became a functioning factor with the people around me by putting myself out there in ways that would benefit everyone.

Was there anything unique about studying abroad in that place at this time? For example, any current events that happened?

Cianna: There is always something unique about studying abroad, but studying climate change mitigation in Costa Rica is extremely eye opening and enlightening to a whole new level. With the recent induction of the New York climate change countdown clock, the scientists chaining themselves to buildings, and the United States still in a state of policy paralysis surrounding climate change, it seems very hopeless to the average person to think they can do something. Monteverde really changes that ideology and shows that changes on the local and individual level do make a difference. Seeing the sustainability farms, the community resources, and the changes that were built from the bottom up shows that things can change, and that every little action is impactful towards climate change, both positive and negative.

What surprised you most?

AJ: I think what surprised me the most was how class oriented the program was. On weekdays, we would have class in the morning, though many times we were working outside through experiential learning. This program is not just a touristy vacation. Though we visit local attractions and see Costa Rica on weekends, it is primarily focused on learning about our topic: climate change. Our discussions and classes have helped me learn about the main climate threats, and what we can do to help. There is a lot of personal connection on what we can do individually, so that we can take action and bring the lessons we have learned home with us.

How did you deal with homesickness?

Irena: Homesickness is very specific to each person, obviously. Among the things I missed and could deal with while abroad were routine and being alone. I know the life of my social battery very well, I know why and when I stop being fun to be around. I opted out of certain social activities when I felt drained and took advantage of any downtime we got. To keep a sense of routine I tried to talk to the people I saw on a daily basis as often as I could, journaled, and attempted to do work for college applications. Unfortunately there’s things you miss that you can’t deal with, I miss my mom and her cooking especially. I keep reminding myself that her and the food will be there when I return. The people and things I miss won’t disappear in the 3 weeks that I’m gone.

How can you best describe your experience to others who haven't lived it?

Autumn: I can best describe this experience as something that no one can really prepare for or have any expectations for. I went into this experience essentially forcing myself to be extroverted and getting out of my comfort zone. As a word of advice, I believe that “strategy” brought me closer to anyone and everyone I talked to during this program. For those who have not experienced the “CIEE experience” before, the best advice you can take is getting out of your comfort zone and being true to yourself, as corny as it may sound, it carried me the whole way through allowing me to meet a variety of unique individuals. :)

What did you learn from a challenging situation you faced?

Ahnsa: I was challenged many times while here at the program. In class, on excursions, etc. However, I don’t feel any one of these situations in particular taught me any one thing, rather that I learned something from being challenged as a whole. I think what I learned the most is that optimism and flexibility are important assets to have and important skills to practice. I found myself in situations where I was caught off guard by our activity, but I decided that my surprise didn’t mean the situation had to then be negative. I could make it positive, and I did, even when the people around me didn’t.


From Left to Right: Hazel, Madison, Heidi, AJ, and Dynisha.


5 words to describe your experience 

Hazel: Rainy, unforgettable, adventurous, nature, delicious food.

Did you find any cool places that you weren’t expecting?

Madison: That open clearing next to the abandoned greenhouse is really cool and the view is amazing. You have to go up the trail behind Tucan (open-air classroom building) and you follow it to the top (of the hill).

Did you cross anything off your bucket list?

Dynisha: Of course. I crossed so many things off my bucket list this summer. I went zip lining and felt the wind all over my face as I was strapped to a single harness. I got to ride a beautiful horse. I went tubing across a rapid river. I got to go on night adventures and met so many interesting people.

From Left to Right: McKenzie, Madison, Lilly, Maeve, and Hazel.


Both in general and on the daily, what was the weather like? 

McKenzie: The weather in Monteverde changes very fast, one second it could be sunny and warm, and the next rainy and cold. Generally it is overcast and it will definitely rain at some point during the day, but there are also a few very nice sunny days! It is always a nice temperature, it is never too hot or too cold.

What did you discover about yourself?

Adah: I discovered that I love to be surrounded by people, and specially meet new people. I loved living with new people and getting to know them and specifics about their life. I learned that I am more extroverted, and although I love my time alone, I love to be surrounded by new and interesting people. On a similar note, I learned how to live with people and respect their spaces which will be an important skill to bring to college.

What ways did you continue to stay physically active while in a new country?

Lilly: …you're trying to reduce your carbon footprint at the same time so you’re not driving, you’re walking instead, which is a change because I don’t live in a big city where you either walk, bike, or take the Metro…’cause usually I’d just drive places. The scenery is so gorgeous, you don’t need an incentive to go walk on the trail. Then, my program leader created this pretty cool club, the Adventure club. Where we got up in the morning to go see places a little bit that we wouldn’t normally see.

What is one touristy thing that is totally worth it?

Maeve: The most touristy thing that was worth it was zip lining! It was such a fun experience because I’ve never been above a rainforest like that from that point of view. It sort of felt like I was flying. The courses were sooo long and it was so exhilarating. I especially enjoyed doing the ride where you had to go with a partner.


From the Author

Although I had been to Monteverde and a few other places on Costa Rica, this is was my first time begin a Program Leader for CIEE. Last time I was really only responsible for myself. I could choose where, when, how, and why to move from place to place to just stay put. Being the caretaker, chapperone, mediator, and often times entertainer of 20 high school teenagers made this trip completely different. Of course, I had the help of many wonderful coworkers, especially my wonderfully passionate, poised, and highly-intelligent co-Program Leader, Alana Zick. Their incredible past experiences and extremely well-informed background has given me a many new perspectives and skills to hone. 

Working with such a diverse group of students has left me feeling many things. I feel grateful to have witnessed young people work through adversity in a completely new environment working towards the common goal of making the world a better place for generations to come. I feel excited to bring the experiences I have had here back to Maine. I want to share stories about I have learned with friends, colleagues, and other young people. I feel cleansed and reinvigorated. I am ready to continue my journey as a lifelong learner and my life's work trying my best to help make other people's lives a little easier. 


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