Around Campus: Grad Students Travel to Costa Rica

Bringing Home Life Lessons

by Brittnie Curtis

"It’s always been important to me to help other people and communities as a whole. In this day and age we’re coming more attached and absorbed in our own self-interests. " - David Vela

“It’s always been important to me to help other people and communities as a whole.” – David Vela

In May 2014, six graduate students in the Department of Agriculture at Texas State traveled to Costa Rica for two weeks. The trip was funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant obtained by animal science professor Dr. Charles Rahe. Costa Rica’s warm climate and fertile soils make it perfect for sustainable agriculture production. The graduate students had the opportunity to learn about crops that are not commonly grown in the U.S., the fishing industry and raising livestock in tropical climates.

One of the students on this trip was David Vela, a native of Laredo, Texas. After spending years helping out on his family’s farm, Vela grew a passion for the environment. He earned his undergraduate degree in agriculture with a minor in animal science in January 2014 here at Texas State. Vela is currently a graduate student studying agricultural education and teaching AG 1110, a freshman-level seminar focused on creating strong academic and professional pathways throughout the pursuit of a degree in an agriculture-related field.

While in Costa Rica, the students zigzagged around the country, visiting various farms and producers of many agricultural products. From Liberia (on the western coast), they made their way to the east coast by the end of the trip. The group visited areas that focused on agriculture production and sustainability. Vela mentioned how Costa Rica has a very different culture from America in that Costa Ricans seem more focused as a community to progress and do right by their people, land and environment.

“My favorite part was being able to detach myself from what I live every day and allowing myself to experience a lifestyle that an American doesn’t experience on a day-to-day basis,” Vela says. “I’m so used to my smartphone, a comfortable bed and air conditioning. There wasn’t really air conditioning in any part of the country and there were places that certainly needed it. No matter what socioeconomic status an American has, it’s nothing compared to what a typical Costa Rican experiences on a day-to-day basis.”

Costa Rica is known for a wide variety of agriculture products, with coffee at the top of the list. Coffee has been exported from the country since the 1790s. When Vela was asked about the one item he had to bring back to America, he answered, “Some organic coffee beans. I brought them back for my mom because she’s a coffee fanatic.”

Since his return to Texas, Vela has begun applying what he learned in Costa Rica to his everyday studies.

“Costa Rica is known for its sustainability and progressive moments,” Vela says. “I want to be an educator/activist of sustainable movement and responsible behavior towards the environment. Knowing how they were able to get a whole country on board helps me. I learned what they do, what does and doesn’t work. I want my main work to be informing youth and the general public about what they can do to make our community stronger, environment healthier and people happier. If I can help someone accomplish what he or she wants to, then have him or her help someone else do the same, that would be great.”

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