Costa Rica Exchange Trip: Memories Never to Be Forgotten

18 E.O. Smith students spent two weeks in April with their Costa Rican host families.


Contributing Photographer

From waterfalls to city streets, Costa Rica proved captivating.

Kat Boskovic

After five years on pause, E.O. Smith High School reintroduced the Costa Rican exchange with the sister school Liceo Bilingue Experimental Pococi in Guapiles, Limón. December and January saw the arrival of eighteen high school students eager to visit the United States, practice their English, and form lifelong friendships with their American friends. On March 31st, three months later, eighteen E.O. Smith students embarked on their twenty-hour journey to the Costa Rican province of Limón to reunite with the Ticos (or Costa Ricans) they had bonded with in January. Over the course of two weeks, the E.O. Smith students visited various regions in the country and made memories never to be forgotten. Here are some of my personal highlights: 


5) Crafting Our Own Chocolate 

Prior to coffee and bananas dominating Costa Rica’s exportation statistics, cacao beans were the primary cash crop, with thriving cacao plantations in all provinces throughout the country. However, due to a detrimental fungus running rampant in the 1970s, most of Costa Rica’s cacao trees were left devastated, and cacao only made a resurgence when a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) protecting the crops from this virus was developed. During our time in Guapiles, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to visit a cacao plantation, taste the fruit, and learn about the complex process of producing chocolate. At the end of our tour, we were even given the chance to become chocolatiers and craft our own, original chocolate using a variety of different ingredients and spices. 


4) Volcano Irazu 

While the 4:00 wake-up was nothing close to glamorous, the pain felt when rolling out of bed that morning was worth the stunning view above the clouds we indulged in at the Volcan Irazu, the dormant volcano close to Cartago and San Jose. Irazu’s last eruption occurred in the 1960s, tormenting the air of these cities with ash and smoke. But on this day, we were fortunate to have clear skies, so we could appreciate Costa Rica’s rolling hills and picturesque mountains. Despite the wind and despite the painful sunburns, this excursion was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

3) Swimming In Waterfalls 

A trip to Costa Rica would not be complete without hikes in the rainforest and swims in the natural waterfalls. At Figues Farm, after a thirty-minute uphill climb, we arrived at a waterfall cascading into a radiant pool that took my breath away. With the help of our guide, we were able to safely walk behind the cascade. While in theory the heavy rain crashing down on us should have put a damper on the experience, it only added to the serenity of the moment. In this fleeting instance, we were at one with nature. 


2) The Opportunity to Fully Immerse Ourselves in the Culture

While some students had never been out of the country and others were seasoned travelers, we all arrived at the same conclusion that the most impactful highlight of this trip was the chance to learn about a new culture and experience it first-hand. In the span of our two unforgettable weeks in Costa Rica, we learned Caribbean dances, played street futbol (or soccer), tried gallo pinto and ceviche, and listened to an appalling number of Bad Bunny songs. The laid-back lifestyle was truly a breath of fresh air from America’s capitalistic hustle culture. In Costa Rica, time no longer existed, and we grew accustomed to the phrase horita – that an event didn’t have a fixed time, but would occur sometime in the near future, whether that be five minutes or five hours. This concept was originally stress-inducing as someone who is so punctual, but it is a concept that I grew to adore. 


1) The Ordinary, Everyday Things 

Traveling isn’t only about climbing volcanoes and swimming in waterfalls. In the lapses of time between these extravagant moments lies the most mundane instances that, despite their ordinary nature, are just as treasured. Family meals every night. Playing cards after a long hike. Skipping classes to talk to our friends in the park. The beauty of these moments resides in their normality. When we look back on this experience, of course we will remember the national parks and the tropical beaches, but we will equally cherish the instances where time ceased to exist and all that remained was the people we were surrounded by and the lifelong connections we were forging. 


Five years later, the 2022/23 Storrs-Guapiles exchange left its participants with memories to value in the years to come and reminded the school of the importance of international programs.