Cessia Gonzalez on a balcony in a tropical forest.

Wherever I am, I hope to bring that community-based mindset that I learned in Costa Rica.

Cessia Gonzalez

  • Student
Psychology and Special Education | Study Abroad
Cessia Gonzalez on a balcony in a tropical forest.
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Psychology and Special Education
Study Abroad

Cessia Gonzalez is pursuing a degree in psychology and participated in the 2022 Study Abroad trip to Costa Rica.

A Conversation with Cessia

Why did you choose to go on this program?

I enjoy learning about diverse cultures and immersing myself in different environments. It's my goal to learn and understand different populations of people. I chose Costa Rica because I have never been to a Latin American country and wanted to see how different it was from the United States. At the time, I was also exploring various possible graduate programs and was open to exploring all sorts of professions in the social sciences. When the opportunity was presented to travel to Costa Rica with the social work program, I couldn't pass it up.

What surprised you the most about your experience?

I have known that Latin American cultures are very family-based and communicative. However, it was always in the context of living in the United States. So, I was amazed by how deeply family and culture are embedded in everything. For example, the community is highly involved in children's education, maintaining public spaces, and aiding the elderly in their neighborhoods. Instead of leaving people stuck in unfavorable circumstances to adapt to an unrelenting social context, social workers in Costa Rica work to change the context, not the person. Their communicative-based culture is so refreshing and different from the individualistic culture in the United States, where everyone is on their own and constantly competing with one another. I was surprised by how much elevation change there was in the terrain. We were constantly changing elevation and my ears were constantly popping. Luckily, I learned that gum helps with elevation sickness so I chewed gum all the time.

What was your favorite part of your time overseas?

I loved seeing the rainforest and the many different visual attractions of the country. The rainforest was an exhausting challenge when we hiked to a waterfall and a calming lullaby when I fell asleep. The view from the hot springs of the volcano was breathtaking. It helped me realize how hard I had worked to get there. It's been quite a year and I got emotional while enjoying the fruits of my labor.

How do you intend to use this experience in the future?

Wherever I am, I hope to bring the community-based mindset I learned in Costa Rica. The individualistic culture in the U.S. is so ingrained in our everyday lives that we often forget we don't have to experience life alone. If I can help someone feel a little less alone, I will feel successful in my efforts.

What is your advice for students who want to study abroad through this program in the future?

Be open to new experiences! Be open to trying new foods, hiking, and exploring the community. Just go for it and be curious. Be prepared for walking on many inclines all the time; the hike is a worthwhile challenge. I broke my ankle the fall before this trip and I was able to finish it, so you can, too. Bring a refillable water bottle. The water is refreshing and potable everywhere, but you must drink a lot of it. Bring gum! Costa Rica mainly consists of hills and mountains, so whenever you travel around the country, it's curvy and constantly changing elevation. It rains a lot, even in the dry season, so come prepared. Umbrellas, rain jackets, ponchos, rain boots or shoes that won't die after getting wet, and waterproof bags are all advisable.

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