Fifteen Ohio State University student-athletes, along with three staff members, departed today for the department’s 10th Buckeyes Go International service-learning program. The Buckeye group is traveling to Costa Rica Wednesday through Tuesday.
The Department of Athletics and SASSO are partnering with Student-Athletes Abroad for the first time. Student-Athletes Abroad’s stated mission is to “offer international education programs designed to remove barriers that typically prevent student-athletes from studying or interning abroad while using sports as a vehicle to increase cultural immersion and maximize educational opportunities.”
Two previous BGI groups have traveled to Costa Rica and this will be the first time Buckeyes serve on the west side of the country in the Playa Flamingo area.
Student-athletes will facilitate sports activities with local youth, support a food bank and participate in a beach clean-up while participating in other service projects. In addition, the Buckeyes are slated to participate in a variety of cultural immersion activities and educational opportunities.
May 7, 2019
Our time in Costa Rica has come to an end, and many wish we could stay a few more days! Our morning began with one last local meal at Restaurante a’lo Nico before gathering our belongings and huddling for the final reflection session. The restaurant’s commitment to sustainability did not go unnoticed this week, especially after our beach clean-up – they serve beverages with metal straws, which a few of us have mentioned purchasing upon our return home.
Our reflection focused on yesterday’s sports activities and considering how perspectives on community service have changed. Buckeyes each described one personal or professional skill we’ve enhanced during the week-long experience, which included teamwork, problem-solving, patience, compassion, and gratitude. In terms of what we learned, many expressed gaining a better understanding of the local culture compared to previous international travel for competitions or vacation, and we reflected on the Costa Rican concept of Pura Vida (‘pure life’ or ‘simple life’ – relaxed, stress-free). The session closed by discussing the importance of being active citizens. As author Charles Handy shared: “Citizenship is the chance to make a difference to the place where you belong.” We plan to continue making a difference upon returning to Columbus, and are grateful to Student-Athletes Abroad for allowing us to join them in making an impact in the Playa Flamingo area this past week.
Special appreciation to Dr. Marissa Floyd, Annika Wachtman, and the Beyond Sports Fellows for being amazing leaders during our incredible week of service-learning. Thank you for your hospitality, coordinating all the activities, translating, and providing us an opportunity to connect the world through sports. We also want to thank Cesar, our bus driver, and Veronica, the campus chef – our experiences wouldn’t have been the same without you!
We are grateful the Athletic Department and SASSO provided this once-in-a-lifetime experience abroad! We can’t wait to return to campus to share with our teammates, coaches, friends, and families.
Go Bucks & Pura Vida!
May 6, 2019
Today we closed our service experiences by hosting local youth from CEPIA – teenagers and preschool age – for sports activities on campus. A few Buckeyes boarded the bus heading to the community, and the rest stayed behind to prepare the activities and snacks.
When the bus arrived we were excited to get started! Half of us were paired with the younger children; we started by coloring in the classroom and getting to know each of the kids; after they became acclimated we had a quick snack of apples and granola bars and moved into the yoga studio and gym for active playtime. The other half of our group partnered with the teenagers to introduce functional training exercises and demonstrate strength-building activities using the equipment available on campus. After a full workout of squats, bench presses, and bicycling the group paused for a snack then finished out the morning with a game of soccer. This was the first time these youth came to the Student-Athletes Abroad campus, and they’ll continue to visit regularly to engage in sustained programming throughout the year.
After service and lunch we drove a few minutes down the road for our final excursion – a catamaran tour. We took off our shoes, boarded a small boat, and headed toward a large catamaran with a handful of other visitors. The catamaran took us far out into the Pacific Ocean and provided incredible views of Costa Rica. We saw the natural hills, trees, and rock formations that align the coast; much of the growth was dried out, and we were told once the rain comes it will all turn a beautiful green color. We also noticed the hotels, resorts, and condos surrounding the area, showcasing Costa Rica’s tourism industry, quite different from the communities we served in this week. After venturing out in the ocean we docked the boat and were able to hop off to enjoy snorkeling, paddle boarding, and swimming. Buckeyes saw sea urchins and a wide variety of fish while snorkeling which was neat! An hour later we boarded the catamaran and headed back to shore, but not before witnessing the beautiful sunset with a surprise appearance of two dolphins jumping alongside the boat, a very picturesque way to end our final night in Playa Flamingo. After a quick stop on campus we traveled to Tamarindo to a street lined with shops and pop-up vendors in order to purchase souvenirs before our travels home.
With a late arrival back to campus we headed to our rooms to pack and prepare for departure. The days surely flew by… Stay tuned for our final blog tomorrow!
May 5, 2019
Ziplines, jaguars, and sloths – oh my! Today we took a break in service to travel to Diamante Eco Adventure Park for an excursion outing.
Diamante is a destination for fun, nature, and education as this sustainable tourism location has many activities on the grounds. Our team started with ziplining; in total there were 5 lines, the longest of which, called the Superman, is almost a mile-long and can make riders travel up to 60mph! Several Buckeyes admitted fear of heights and nervousness, and teammates quickly utilized their coaching skills to provide words of encouragement and support as we stepped out of our comfort zones and conquered fears. Ziplining provided quite the adrenaline rush with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and Costa Rican canopy.
Ziplining came to an end in the animal sanctuary; the last task was to cross a walking bridge that hung over a crocodile pond. It was neat to see the diverse array of animals in the sanctuary – frogs, snakes, butterflies, monkeys, and cats such as the ocelot, margay, and puma. Animals in the park have been transferred from other wildlife centers or brought to Diamante as they can no longer survive in the wild. Guides and sanctuary staff shared educational facts about the animals surrounding us – did you know the jaguar has the strongest bite after the crocodile, and that it has no predator? How about that sloths often mistake their own limbs for tree branches? We even got to see the jaguars enjoy an afternoon “popsicle” – a ball of frozen chicken and beef hanging in their habitat. Overall it was great to learn about and see species native to Costa Rica up close and in person, especially the sloths and toucans which are found on lots of items in the souvenir shops.
We closed the night watching the sunset at a nearby pool and returned to campus to celebrate a few special life moments for three Buckeyes! Aaliyah P. and Jeff celebrated their shared birthday, while Brittany graduated with her master’s degree. The Student-Athletes Abroad team and Beyond Sports Fellows joined in on the celebrations and presented a chocolate cake, which was very tasty! Afterwards we had a thoughtful reflection session on what we learned about ourselves and Costa Rica from the excursion, shared what emotions we felt during yesterday’s service, and gave Buckeye shout outs to compliment our peers on actions observed this week. Tomorrow we’re staying on campus to host more sports activities, but first we’re streaming Game of Thrones (and starting a card game for those who don’t watch)!
May 4, 2019
Fresh piña, tortilla española, and café was on the menu this morning before we prepared to host a sports camp here on the Student-Athletes Abroad campus. Everyone wishes we could bring a pineapple home as it is the most fresh and juicy we’ve ever had!
After breakfast we circled up to discuss plans for the day. Jenna, Aaliyah P., and Bernie hopped on the bus to pick-up children from Brasilito and Potrero for our day of sports activities. The rest of the Buckeyes helped set-up activity stations, and we kept our flexibility and curiosity high as we weren’t certain to expect 5 children or 50. In a short time it was determined the yoga studio would be a gymnastics & karate area, the gymnasium would be used for dodgeball and other ball sports, and the classroom turned into an arts and crafts space.
As the bus unloaded we were excited to welcome 20+ youth from one town, and 15+ from another! Tatum and Izzy supported the registration table; Tatum wrote each child’s name on a nametag while Izzy placed it on their shirt. Other Buckeyes welcomed the children into the gymnasium for general play before the activities began. Children were split into three age ranges and Buckeyes led them through each station over the course of a few hours. In addition to rotating with their groups, Jenna and Angel planned gymnastics activities which was quite fun as the kids tried handstands and somersaults – both forwards and backwards! Jaimen and Emma shared Ohio State with everyone by way of temporary tatuajes (tattoos!), and the Buckeye staff (Jeff, Bree, and Brittany) helped serve lunch and circled around to all the stations which made for quite a fun day. It was a great to utilize leadership and teamwork skills to support Student-Athletes Abroad’s desire to connect the world through sport!
Cultural immersion activities filled our evening schedule; first was a cooking lesson with the campus chef, Veronica. She taught us how to make empanadas and everyone had a blast mashing the dough, filling it with ground beef, and folding it into a perfect half circle. We were excited to taste our creations along with fresh tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole, beans and lettuce to complete our dinner for the evening. Our cultural experiences were not over, however — we closed the night with a dance lesson to learn merengue, salsa, and bachata. We had a blast shaking our hips with instructor Greddy and look forward to sharing our new moves back in Columbus!
May 3, 2019
Buenos Días! Today’s service activities started by heading to Potrero for a beach clean-up. First things first: sunscreen! Buckeyes were sure to lather on sunscreen to protect from the rays beaming down here in Costa Rica.
Not only did we protect our skin… the focus of the morning activity was to protect the environment. Keeping the environment clean and recycling is very important here in Costa Rica; the country is known for it’s beautiful outdoors – from beaches to volcanoes and a wide variety of biodiversity. When we arrived to the playa (beach), we donned gloves, grabbed bags, and started walking. At first glance the beach didn’t appear very trash-ridden, however upon looking more closely we noticed small items such as bottle caps, cigarette butts, and straws strewn across the sand. As we got further from the water and into the trees and bush areas, we noticed larger pieces of trash such as beer bottles, fishing wire, and even a tattered beach chair. We also pulled a few plastic bottles and bags from a small pond area where a hundred tiny frogs were jumping.
We came upon a trashcan and noticed a small sign on a tree; in English it read: “Nature does not know what to do with garbage; you do.” What a great, simple reminder that we should all take more care of mother nature and throw our garbage away in the correct receptacles on a daily basis. In all the team filled 17 bags and diverted harmful trash from possibly entering the ocean and affecting the wildlife nearby.
After the clean-up we took a walk around the square in Potrero, picking up trash along the way, and headed to a nearby beach for 45 minutes of downtime. Buckeyes enjoyed cooling off in the water and met a few locals who showed them how to surf across the sand with a skim board.
After lunch we traveled back to Potrero for sports activities with kids ranging from 5 – 13 years old. Student-Athletes Abroad partners with Abriendo Mentes, a community organization that provides educational and community development programs for local youth and families in Potrero and Brasilito. This set of activities was very structured and organized, and Buckeyes started warm-ups with jogging and a unique obstacle course. We then split into three teams and did a three-legged race, played soccer, and practiced volleyball skills.
The night ended with a spontaneous karaoke session and thoughtful reflection on the environment and sustainability, education, and cultural differences in the communities here near Playa Flamingo. We’re looking forward to tomorrow as we’ll be hosting kids from both communities for a sports camp on campus!
Thanks for reading – Go Bucks!
May 2, 2019
Today the group woke up feeling excited for the first day of service! We ate breakfast at a soda where most tried a traditional dish called “gallo pinto” – rice and beans served with scrambled eggs among protein such as bacon or avocado. We then ventured 15 minutes away to a local community center and school ran by the non-profit CEPIA, which stands for Culture, Education, and Psychology for Infants and Adolescents. CEPIA’s stated mission is to “promote culture, health, sports and education for children and teenagers and their families from poor backgrounds in the communities of Guanacaste, Costa Rica.”
Buckeyes led a morning of sports activities including soccer, field races, and childhood games such as duck, duck, goose (or in Spanish: pato, pato, ganso) with first graders and kindergartners. We learned that organized sports aren’t really existent in Costa Rica, so working with the children was different than the Buckeyes have experienced leading camps or sports activities with youth back home.
After playing at the turf field we headed inside the school to unload a delivery of supplies before enjoying lunch made by CEPIA staff. We rounded out the morning engaging with the kids academically, working in small groups to teach English. Communication and body language skills were put into action to teach personal introductions, numbers, animals, and colors, and the groups even broke out into song to teach body parts through “Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes” while learning quite a bit of Spanish in return!
In the afternoon, the group took a short break from the heat, refueled with lots of water, and prepared for evening sports activities at a playground in Brasilito. The SAA team regularly visits the school grounds on Thursday nights to provide extracurricular activities for youth, so we were able to jump right in and play kickball, basketball, and soccer with a handful of kids as they returned from school.
Before heading back to campus we made a pit stop at a convenient store where Buckeyes discovered new and familiar foods in the grocery aisles. A few learning moments occurred as we reviewed prices, calculated conversion rates from Costa Rican colónes to US dollars, and read labels.
We closed with reflection and circled up to share thoughts and feelings from day 2. The team discussed differences in education and working with children in Costa Rica compared to the US, shared how they approached teaching, and reflected on what they had learned about the culture less than 48 hours in to our experience in Costa Rica.
Tomorrow’s service starts with a beach cleanup, so we’re planning for a good night’s sleep. Hasta luego!
May 1, 2019
Day 1: travel day! We started early this morning with a 3:45 AM meeting time at the Fawcett Center – phew! Our adventure to Costa Rica officially began as we boarded the bus to the airport. Flying from Columbus to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Liberia, we totaled a little less than 6 hours in the air.
After going through customs we met our leader for the week, Dr. Marissa Floyd with Student-Athletes Abroad (SAA), and wow… the heat surely hit us! It’s 90+ degrees here, which is a nice change from the clouds and cold in the Buckeye state.
Our first stop was for lunch just outside the airport. We sat at picnic tables in an open-air restaurant and enjoyed arroz con camarones (rice with shrimp), arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), and casados (a typical plate which translates to “marriage” and consists of rice, beans, salad, protein, and plantains). After getting our first taste of local food we hopped on the bus to head to SAA’s campus.
Marissa provided a quick orientation to campus and led us in conversation about service-learning, then we took an evening walk to the beach about 15 minutes away. Buckeyes enjoyed the cool breeze, white sand, and crashing waves as we swam and watched the sun go down on our first night in Playa Flamingo.
We wrapped up the evening with dinner at a soda. A “soda” is a local eatery that serves typical Costa Rican cuisine. This soda on the beach specialized in seafood, and we enjoyed another family-style meal with breaded fish, steak and peppers, fried chicken, seafood and rice, and refreshing batidos – blended juice beverages. The favored choice wasn’t pineapple, blackberry, or another fruit we commonly find in the US; it was cas, and it’s hard to describe the flavor other than telling you it’s green and very delicious.
Tomorrow starts our first day of service, and we look forward to sharing more throughout the week!