All Posts

Costa Rica Pre-Med & Public Health (Session 1B)

June 23-24, 2019

The day has finally arrived, our first day. After all of the nerves, excitement, and concerns, we get to meet the group of people we will be spending the next two weeks with. Although some of us drove in, and some flew, we all had a common feeling, excitement. It was nerve racking at first, not know anyone, but after a few minutes it felt like we’d known each other for years. When we arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica we drove to the hotel. We all loved getting to know each other. The next day we drove 5 hours to Monteverde. The bus ride was long but we enjoyed sleeping, playing gamers, talking, and making bracelets. We have already made so many memories in such a short period of time. On Monday we also went on a hike through the jungle. It was pitch black and we saw snakes, spiders, and frogs. I disliked all of them! We did see a sloth which was exciting, but the snakes still had me shaking. We got dinner and headed off to sleep. Overall, we had a great day, and are excited to see what tomorrow brings.

~ By Emily P.

June 25, 2019

After an exciting night hike in the forest, we all woke up to the sun shining, birds chirping, and a wholesome breakfast of toast, fruit, juice, gallo pinto and egg at the Historias Nature Lodge in Monteverde. Soon after eating we suited up to soar through the cloud forest of Monteverde on our zip lining tour. Although many (if not all) of us were scared, we relied on each other’s excited shrieks of encouragement to get through all the different cables. At the end of the course, we all laughed at the goofy pictures taken of us mid-air. Pilling in the minibus, we travelled to eat lunch at a sushi restaurant, Neko Sushi, and another restaurant, Open Kitchen. After we got our fill, we went shopping for souvenirs and ate handmade ice cream! To de-stress and rewind, we went to a yoga class after a quick break at Historias. While munching on tea, coffee, some bread and cookies, we settled down to talk about our expectations, fears, and questions. Once all of our doubts were cleared, we headed to a coffee cafe for dinner. After we ate (and bonded over our childhood experiences), we came back to the Historias Nature Lodge we call home and settled in for the night after a few quick, and action-packed games of Uno. With our bellies full and our hearts full, we slept in anticipation of what’s to come on this trip.

~ By Akshaya K

June 26, 2019

We woke up this morning and packed all of our belongings and brought it to breakfast where we had fruit and pancakes, and fried plantains. After eating we loaded onto the bus and headed to Veracruz where we enjoyed our bienvenida party and met our home stay families. They will be our hosts for the next four nights and five days. We watched their different performances together and then joined the dancing. We danced with our host moms, host siblings, and all the small children at the community event. We also played “pato, pato, ganso” which is “duck, duck, goose.” Few of the kids or parents speak English! After our party we collected our bags and headed to the host families houses to settle in. After meeting my host mom and the children, I became very excited because they are all so kind, and I’m excited to see what we will do together. I am also nervous because I don’t know enough Spanish to speak conversationally. I will need to rely on my friends to improve. My goal is to speak more fluently by the time I leave Costa Rica.

~ By Sophie

June 27, 2019

Today was amazing. It was our second day in our home stay. Our home stay mom is such an amazing and kind-hearted person, and she cooked us a delicious breakfast. We ate rice and beans with sweet plantains and eggs. We also had some papaya! After that we walked to the local school were we laughed and played with the kids. They are so adorable! They even put on a little for us. We went into the classrooms and got to know them better, then from there headed to our home stay houses for lunch- which was so good! After that we gave her our home stay gifts; she cried. Then we went on a mapping adventure but thanks to the rain we found shelter inside, and spent the day with Cece and Emily’s host family. It was so amazing relaxing and listening to music, talking, laughing, and interacting with each other and the host family. Around 5pm we started to head home, one by one slowly departing from each other. We then found a tree full of coconuts! We picked about seven straight from the tree and I was so happy! WE GOT COCONUTS!!! After that we visited our host sister’s house. We chilled for a little bit and then went to have dinner. We ate tacos, which were delicious! I can’t wait for tomorrow.

~ By Aaron

June 28, 2019
Today is our third day in our home stay, and I’m just going to say I’m going to miss my family a lot. Although, let’s start the day off by saying we ate a really good breakfast; our mom cooks the best food ever! I swear I am gaining weight, because the food is so good. After breakfast we went to a yucca packaging and processing factory which was interesting to see where they do everything. Throughout the day we went through the process of planting, gathering, washing, drying, packaging and exporting the yucca. I definitely did not enjoy all the mud we had to walk in when we visited the yucca farm! We did learn that the factory has to follow all U.S. safety rules in order to export there, and I found that interesting.
-Cierah G.
June 29, 2019
This morning we got to do a service project in Veracruz. There’s a sidewalk close to the church that was covered in grass and dirt, so we spent around 3 hours trying to clear it. We didn’t get all the way through and it was exhausting, but it felt good doing something for a community that has done so much for us. In the afternoon we got to relax by going to hot springs. They were so beautiful. You took little paths through the forest to get to different little pools. As we were sitting in one pool, we starting asking one of our guides Jorge, about the plants around us. We ended up talking about medicinal uses for tree sap and looking for different animals. It was completely surreal learning about rain shadow forests while in one, sitting in a rocky pool that’s naturally heated. We came home after, and my host mom helped one of our group members pack her bags. It was fun to spend some time together, even doing a chore. Then, we all played another game of UNO- most last around 2 hours, so we were up late. It’ll be so hard to say goodbye to our host families tomorrow, but I’m excited to see what comes next.
-Bailey B.
June 30, 2019
Coming soon!

 July 1, 2019

Today was out first day in the clinics and the start of our pre-medicine journey! We were all a little nervous before we got there, as working in a clinic was something new to almost everyone, but we all walked out of it with smiles on our faces. I was taking inventory of the clinic- recording medicines and the amount they had of each medicine. They placed a large amount of trust in our group with this inventory task, and with each of the other tasks our group was assigned. We noticed this was one of the differences between a Costa Rican clinic and a United States medical clinic. In the United States, we probably would not have been able to do some of the cool things we were allowed to do like shadowing a doctor, working in the pharmacy, checking patients into the system, and distributing medicine. After the clinic we hung out by the pool and enjoyed the beautiful view of our hotel, Casa Cielo Grande. We took pictures in front of the evening cityscape background. It was so nice to see our group together, relaxing and talking. We enjoyed a movie night and watched Big Hero 6 in the living room of our beautiful group house. (Our fight about what movie to watch made us seem like a real family!) In many ways we are starting to become one, which would make Jorge (our trip leader) proud.

– Meredith B.

July 2, 2019

Today myself and several others (Emily, Kareem, Sophie, and I), were volunteering in the examination room shadowing the doctor in the FIMRC clinic. While we sat in the examination room we watched her interactions with each patient as she explained what was going on with each patient. Every single patient was very understanding, open and even excited to help us learn. The first patient of the day was an older man who offered to let us listen to his heart and lung sounds, before the doctor even asked. Some of the patients were nervous to be in a medical clinic and to be talking to a doctor, but all the patients always show their immense amount of gratitude.

Today we got to help get injections ready for the patients- which the doctor made look way easier than it actually was. We saw patients from 3 years old to around 70 years old and the connection we were able to make with all the patients was an amazing feeling and experience. One of our patients was suffering from asthma and we observed as the female doctor explained how to correctly use the inhaler, making sure the patient could self administer their medication efficiently. As the doctor taught the patient how to use the inhaler, and it was amazing to see how much she, and everyone in the clinic helped today. We then ended the day with a fun Latin dance lesson back at Casa Cielo Grande.
– Nina W.

July 3, 2019

Today was our last day volunteering at the FIMRC clinic, and I must say it was a bittersweet feeling; we are excited to move on to the next part of the clinical rotations, but also sad to say goodbye to all the sweet staff members we meter, such as Dayan. Although it was our third and last day at the clinic we had a new experience by working at their mobile clinic set up by FIMRC. Because it was in a different location of Alajuelita, we took a little bus ride to a small neighborhood and transported some clinic staff, volunteers, and a suitcase full of medicine. When we got to El Jazmin, where the mobile clinic is set, we noticed it was an impoverished area that has little to no access to medical care. After setting up in an empty community space, we started getting patients from all ages. The diversity and amount of patients, and their different situations was surprising. One could tell the impact this clinic has on this community and how grateful the community is for their presence. Then we had lunch, got on the bus to Heliconias, where we enjoyed a change in scenery and a nice dinner. Now we are ready for the last few nights of the trip!


July 4, 2019

Happy 4th of July! This new hotel is amazing!! They have a beautiful garden, a big warm pool, and powerful AC. As we get closer towards the end of the trip I appreciate being able to make stronger bonds with everyone in our group. Today we had a change of plans which at first I felt disappointed about, but after the minor setback I was grateful to enjoy the day with four of us who volunteered to place new trashcans around the local community. This was part of a community health project to reduce the spread of dengue, a disease spread by mosquitoes that can breed in garbage. Today was a very hardworking day, but still a great experience. We made trash bags, played with a cute puppy named Orea, ate a refreshing home cooked lunch, created recycled bracelets from used fabric, relaxed in the pool, and finally ended the day with a s’mores party. To wrap up such a fun night, out leader Jorge took us on a night hike to look for nocturnal animals. I couldn’t have asked for a better 4th of July. I can’t wait for clinic rotations tomorrow!


July 5 , 2019

The quaint, rural province of San Carlos have seven small regional clinics called an Ebais, where one doctor takes care of an area of roughly 3,000 patients, and our group managed to visit four of them. Splitting into different groups, I went to the La Tigra Ebais with Andrea, Natalia, and Bailey where we split up individually to shadow a pharmacist, a nurse who takes the patients’ initial readings, the doctor, and an auxiliary nurse in the infirmary. One of the most interesting concepts I found about Costa Rican medicine is their consistency in providing preventative medicine, rather then curable, no matter the location or clinic. A large part of this relies simply on educating the public whether it be nutrition to limit the continuing development of anemia in a small child, or their increasing cases of type 2 diabetes (already more then 500) in the community, or about contraceptives to a women now pregnant with her eighth child. And still we have yet to discuss one of the most valuable preventative medicines offered (other than nutrition, naturally): vaccines. Due to the immense controversy in the United States, learning about the situation here was fascinating to me; in a country that is a great majority Christian, religious beliefs can play no role in vaccinating children, as the state maintains the right to temporarily take custody of your children to vaccinate them. To me, this helps to show the privilege as Americans have, in that we have even the option not to vaccinate our children against the diseases this population faces in all walks of life, the diseases this country has deemed so dangerous to society they offer the insured cost of vaccines to the migrants, documented or not. As a student who is not only interested in medicine, but in global health and policy also, I found the entirety of today, from talking with doctors and interacting with patients to having a discussion with regional leader about the Caja (their healthcare system I only wish could be implemented in the States), to not only be one of the most interesting and educational experiences of the trip, but to be among the coolest ones as well.

– Jeremy A.

July 6, 2019
After two weeks of appreciating the clinics and the “pura vida” lifestyle of Costa Rica, we were once again given the opportunity to enjoy Costa Rica itself. This morning, we were able to hike down a small canyon in La Fortuna (it was more like paved steps all the way down, but it’s more fun to say we hiked it) to the base of this absolutely gorgeous waterfall, where we got to take a whole lot of pictures (which my camera storage didn’t enjoy as much as I did) and swim in the river that flows from it. The water was quite cold, but felt amazing compared to the heat and humidity after walking down. It also helped a lot to be distracted by the beautiful rainforest scenery completely surrounding us. Unfortunately, we did then have to make the trek all the way back up, which to say the lest will not be the highlight of my trip. After catching our breath, we were dropped off in the center of the town of La Fortuna, where we were given a spending budget of 7,000 colones per person, split off into groups and set out into town for lunch and some souvenir shopping. After a delicious lunch and some shopping and snacking, we headed back to the hotel to relax for the rest of the afternoon. After a quick night walk (where Parker and I almost stepped on a snake) to visit some red-eyed tree frogs, we finished off the day with a movie night, which included a bunch of snacks and a cartoon rat that cooks the best ratatouille Paris has to offer.

– Jeremy A.

July 7, 2019

Today we took a trip to the alternative medicine clinic called MERZ to learn some more about alternative medicine practices. The clinic had a large variety of treatments including floral therapy, massages, an ionic footbath for detoxing, neuro feedback to train your brain, biofeedback to train your breathing and many more! We learned that the treatments are used as preventative care, as well as solutions for ailments that normal medicine cannot cure. We got to rotate through all the different treatments and pick one to try. I chose the ionic-detoxing footbath, which is used to draw toxins out of your body through your feet. The bath then starts to turn a certain color, which is  then used to identify which part of your body the treatment is cleaning. After we all enjoyed some relaxation time, we ended the night with a visit from our residential sloth named “McFuzzies”, named by our trip leader Carly. We reminisced on everything we learned from the lead acupuncturist, who gave us all a very special heart-shaped rock, which she collects everywhere she goes :-).
-Natalia C.