Student Profile: Amy Willmont in Costa Rica

I have had many incredible experiences here in the College of Forestry (CoF), but nothing compares to the opportunities that I have had to study abroad. The CoF recognizes how incredibly life changing studying abroad is to a college student, and makes every effort to provide its students with the means to do so.

In my sophomore year, I was able to travel to Chile for winter quarter. It was by far the best thing that I have ever done in my life. I came out of that experience a completely different (and better) person. When I returned, I had the travel bug, and felt like going to another country was no longer just a desire, but a need.

When I first heard about the course FOR 365, Issues in Natural Resources Conservation, I was immediately intrigued. It was offered as an online class during fall quarter 2013, with a required field trip to Costa Rica during winter break. Most importantly, since this is my final year at Oregon State, it fulfilled both a Baccalaureate Core requirement in Contemporary Global Issues and a requirement in my Natural Resources Policy and Management option.

I was wary about getting too excited at first, because I figured that I would not be able to afford all of the costs of the class. But the College of Forestry proved me wrong! I received a very generous scholarship from the College to help support my international experience.  I was absolutely thrilled because I did not think that I would be able to study abroad again. I would not have been able to spend an entire quarter abroad again if I wanted to graduate on time, and I could never have afforded this experience soley on my own.

I learned so many valuable things from the online portion of the class. It really helped to supplement my other courses and reinforce some valuable topics that are essential to a thorough understanding of natural resource management. However, the main event (of course) was the trip to Costa Rica. I absolutely loved the format of the class, where you learn a lot of important information and then actually see it play out in real life.

While in Costa Rica, we traveled through almost the entire country in 10 days, and saw things that you can only see once in a lifetime. We toured a pineapple plantation, went whitewater rafting, heard lectures from incredible biologists and ecologists, and spent a great deal of time observing the tropical rainforests. We visited wind energy and hydro energy sites, watched sea turtles laying eggs, toured the mangroves, and relaxed on the beach. It was both exhausting and incredibly wonderful.

Along with the important natural resources issues that we learned about, a study abroad experience means that you also learn about a new culture and experience all that it has to offer.

We met many wonderful people, and were able to explore the towns and eat Costa Rican food. Although Spanish is the primary language of Costa Rica, almost everyone that we met also spoke English. It gave me an opportunity to practice the Spanish that I had learned in Chile, but also allowed me to effectively communicate when I inevitably forgot some important words.

While in school, we absorb course-loads of valuable information, but nothing compares to seeing it play out in real life. If you have any interest in expanding your horizons and challenging yourself to do something completely new, I would strongly encourage you to explore your options when it comes to studying abroad. The College of Forestry will be there to support and guide you along the way.