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Costa Rica offers education opportunity

Friday, September 21, 2007  
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By Wendy Sanders

Oklahoma Christian University students are often given opportunities to travel to foreign countries for mission work or education. Through the Counsel for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) two students are able to study in Costa Rica this semester.

Amie Hersh and Allison Bower left for Latin America in August with Spanish knowledge and an eagerness to study in another culture. Both Hersh and Bower are Spanish majors and are now able to experience life in the Latin American culture.

CCCU has been helping many students study abroad through more programs than the Christian schools can offer.  Director of international programs, John Osborne, has been the CCCU connection for the students for the past few years.

“The focus of these programs is helping students of Christian universities have these study experiences that will shape and form them to learn and grow,” Osborne said.

Hersh and Bower have now been in San José, Costa Rica, for a month and are staying in host family homes.

“This is their Latin America studies program. The reason it is good for these students is they’ll get a more in-depth Spanish language experience,” Osborne said.

When they are not in class studying, they are typically reading for homework, riding the bus about four hours each day, and traveling.

The girls are studying mostly about the politics, economy and language of Costa Rica. This is not Hersh’s first trip to Peru, but this is the longest she has been away from home.

“I could tell you that they are religious about cleaning their floors in their houses, that women are sometimes treated like belongings, or that there is no such thing as a personal bubble, but it wouldn’t do justice to the culture. You have to live it to know it,” Hersh said.

Bower has been able to travel to many places during her time at Oklahoma Christian. She traveled with the Vienna Studies program in the fall of 2005 and has also been to Mexico several times. This is her first time traveling to Central and South America.

During the past month, Bower has been able to travel around the area and learn with first hand experience.

“The main emphasis is on opening our eyes and our minds, understanding the world from a view outside of our own, and acting out of love and a Christian mind-set upon what we see. We live with local families and interact with them every day. They are really becoming like our families,” Bower said.

The main language in Costa Rica is Claro, not Spanish. The girls are learning but are mostly able to get around the city using Spanish.

“Our families are not allowed to speak English to us, and you can’t function in the city without knowing Spanish,” Hersh said.

Hersh and Bower have had many culturally educating experiences in Costa Rica.

Bower recently celebrated her birthday and ended up spending the afternoon with a local woman named Lupe.

“Having just found out it was my birthday, she quickly found in her home some gifts to give me: a shirt given to her by a friend that said ‘Jamaica’ on it and a stuffed bunny. To be honest, I don’t need either one. The shirt is too big, and the bunny is old and useless, but those gifts were so special to me,” Bower said.

Both Hersh and Bower will return to the states in the middle of December.

“If you have a chance to study abroad, just do it. Don’t ask questions and don’t doubt; just do it. You won’t regret it,” Hersh said.

The CCCU program web site, http://www.bestsemester.com, is the way in which many students learn about the programs for which they can apply.

“We haven’t sent many students, but this year, we have the largest number ever which is four. We have several applicants for the spring as well,” Osborne said.

Students, Elaine Ekpo and Titus Ellis, are also studying away from campus through CCCU’s help.


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